Phoenix Bishop Could End up in Court

By Som Lisaius
KOLD News 13 [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded June 4, 2003

Bishop Thomas O'Brien of the Phoenix Diocese could find himself in court, after making comments that he never participated in covering up allegations of abuse. Bishop O'Brien continues to insist he committed no crimes and that he never concealed sex-abuse allegations against priests. But in a written agreement with the Maricopa County Attorney, the Bishop admitted to misconduct. He even apologized and expressed regret. So what does this really mean? We asked one local lawyer who knows quite a bit about the Catholic Church.

"Look what it did for President Clinton when he tried to split hairs on what sex was and what sex wasn't. This is exactly what bishop O'Brien is doing." Lynn Cadigan is the attorney who represented 11 sexual abuse victims who recently settled for millions of dollars with the Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Today, Cadigan is representing two people who've filed lawsuits against the Phoenix Diocese and Bishop Thomas O'Brien.

Says Cadigan, "He admitted in paragraph 9, that under supervision, he allowed priests to have contact with minor children that he knew were accused pedophiles." That's what Bishop O'Brien said in a written statement to the Maricopa County Attorney in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Tuesday, O'Brien was much more general in his defense, but still maintains he did nothing wrong.

"I didn't lie," he said. "No. No. I just believe there was no cover up. Anyone can put a different spin on that if they want to. But I know what I tried to do. And I know I tried to do the best I could."

But Cadigan doesn't buy it. "This Bishop made a deal like any other pot dealer, any other drug dealer. This bishop made a deal. Although most drug dealers don't get to stand up on the air and say...'Ha ha, now that I have immunity--I'm gonna thumb my nose and deny it.'"

Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley is now looking into whether the Bishop's comments constitute a breach of agreement. Which could potentially land O'Brien in front of a grand jury. If so, it's believed O'Brien will fall back on a technicality--since his immunity calls for a written statement and not an oral one.

Either way, Cadigan says the spirit of the agreement has been broken. "Maybe I'm not as smart as Bishop O'Brien," she says. "And he can somehow see his way around that and say he never did anything wrong. But to me, as a person, that sounds wrong."

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