May 06, 2006

Catholic leader steps down; had led Life Teen youth group

he Arizona Republic

Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
May. 6, 2006 12:00 AM

The president of a Catholic youth ministry, facing a civil lawsuit in a sexual misconduct case, has stepped down after 21 years on the job.

Phil Baniewicz of Mesa helped found the Life Teen ministry with Monsignor Dale Fushek in 1985. The Life Teen program is used in 950 Catholic parishes worldwide.

In a lawsuit filed in January 2005, Baniewicz was accused of threatening and sexually abusing William J. Cesolini of Phoenix. The lawsuit also accuses Fushek of masturbating as he watched another priest abuse Cesolini. Fushek was suspended in December 2004 when an attorney for Cesolini brought the matter to the attention of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. advertisement

Defendants also included the Phoenix Diocese; Olmsted; Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, former diocesan leader; Life Teen; and Mark Lehman, a former priest who served 10 years in prison for molesting students at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Phoenix.

Posted by kshaw at May 6, 2006 07:56 AM