No Cutoff Date for Trupia Stipend
Trupia, Is "Manipulating the System," Said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Former Canon Lawyer for the Vatican Embassy in Washington
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
Downloaded February 22, 2003
Many local Catholics have expressed outrage that Monsignor Robert C. Trupia continues to be paid by the local diocese 11 years after he was suspended over accusations of child molesting.
But there are no signs of when Trupia's pay might be cut off, in spite of new policies on handling abusive priests that were approved by the Vatican in December. Trupia was one of four Diocese of Tucson priests named in 11 civil suits settled out-of-court last year for an amount people close to the case place as high as $16 million.
The lawyer who filed those civil suits estimates Trupia had at least 30 victims.
In the 11 years since he was suspended, the local diocese has paid the 54-year-old priest a total of $177,000, and officials say they must continue until Trupia is defrocked - a process also called laicization that must go through the Vatican.
"There's something fishy with the whole system if they've waited 11 years,'' said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former canon lawyer for the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C., who now works as chaplain for the U.S. Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany. "Eleven years is too long. Way too long.''
U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops spokesman Bill Ryan said that although he has no hard figures on laicizations against a priest's wishes, "I'm thinking it shouldn't take that long."
Ryan added that the new U.S. norms for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by clerics, first drafted by U.S. bishops in June, then revised and approved by the Holy See in December, are intended to streamline the process.
The Vatican refused to comment. Trupia and his lawyer could not be reached on Friday.
When former Archdiocese of Boston priest John J. Geoghan, who is a convicted child molester and now in prison, was laicized in 1998, it took about a year.
The only way a priest can be laicized is voluntarily at his request, or at the request of a superior petitioning the Vatican for it.
Doyle, who gave a deposition against the Diocese of Tucson in local clergy abuse civil lawsuits, has testified in other similar suits around the country. He said defrocking, or "forced laicization," can be achieved through the Vatican in a year or even less; however, very few priests are ever laicized against their wishes. He knows of just six such cases in the United States, including Geoghan. Many bishops opt for suspensions because they don't require Vatican approval or a church trial and they can be achieved quickly within individual dioceses.
Bishop Manuel D. Moreno suspended Trupia in 1992 after getting a letter from the mother of a former Tucson altar boy who said Trupia abused her son while they attended Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, 1800 S. Kolb Road, during the 1970s. Yet under a suspension, Trupia is still technically a priest with the Diocese of Tucson.
Local diocese officials, who have called Trupia a "notorious and serial predator" maintain that until Trupia is defrocked, they are obliged under church law to continue giving him $1,475 per month, which includes benefits.
Indeed, Canon 1350 of Catholic Church law says that unless a priest has been defrocked, provision must always be made that he does not "lack those things which are necessary for his decent support."
"Right now we are bound by that," Diocese of Tucson Chancellor June Kellen said Friday. "We continue to pursue laicization."
When an Arizona Daily Star reporter tracked him down in Ellicott City, Md., last month, Trupia appeared to be doing well financially.
He was driving a 1999 Mercedes-Benz C320, and living in a $110,000 condominium in a suburb of Baltimore for a rent of $1,100 per month.
"He certainly has another source of income. He's proven himself to be a totally dishonest, probably sociopathic individual," said Doyle, who, like Trupia, holds a doctorate in canon law from Catholic University.
"This guy is one of the worst cases I've ever worked on and he was covered up by the former bishop in an unbelievable way. You've got a bad, bad scene there."
Francis J. Green, the bishop of the local Diocese of Tucson in the 1970s, retired in 1982 and died in 1995.
Diocese of Tucson Coadjutor Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas was not available for comment Friday but he has said he's not certain why Trupia's laicization is taking so long, other than the fact that Trupia, who is a canon lawyer and defending himself on his case, continues to appeal. Diocese of Tucson officials have been to the Vatican twice over the past 11 years to pursue Trupia's laicization.
"Trupia's is a very important case, especially in light of what the bishops did in Dallas,'' said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who is now a writer and researcher specializing in the Catholic Church. "This process of acknowledging sexual abuse is not really understood in Rome."
Sipe said Trupia won the latest appeal to his case on a legal technicality that had to do with form, and nothing to do with the facts contained in the allegations against him.
Trupia was living in secret when the Star reporter visited his home and briefly spoke with him last month. His phone and utilities were under the name of the condominium's owner, Monsignor Charles G. Fatooh of the Catholic Diocese of Monterey.
Fatooh, who was second-in-command at the Diocese of Monterey for the past three years, resigned after the Star story was published and is now talking with his lawyers about Trupia's tenancy in his condominium. Fatooh has known Trupia for more than 20 years.
Unlike religious order priests and nuns, diocesean priests like Trupia and Fatooh do not take vows of poverty and are allowed to accumulate wealth. They make promises of celibacy, obedience and simplicity of life, but can still invest and have large financial holdings.
"The Catholic Diocese of Tucson had ample reason to suspend Monsignor Trupia. He's manipulating the system. My gut feeling is that the diocese probably feels painted into a corner with him," Doyle said. "They feel they are obliged to support him.
"Under these circumstances, I suspect that given the fact of what Trupia has done and the proof against him, were the bishop to really pursue it aggressively he would be successful," Doyle said of Trupia's laicization. "Trupia keeps appealing, but that can only go so far."
* Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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