By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
The timeline states the following:
• Becker did not remember Haslanger's 1966 complaint, but he confirmed the 1968 complaints by Evert and Don.
• A St. Stephen's administrator (likely Woodruff) reported Haslanger's initial complaint to then-Headmaster Fred Weissbach in 1993. There is no evidence Weissbach reported the complaint to the diocese at that time.
• In 1996, Weissbach reported Haslanger's second complaint to then-Bishop Claude Payne.
• The diocese then sent letters to former St. Stephen's and St. James faculty and students, notifying them of the allegations. The letters asked anyone having information about the allegations to notify the diocese.
And then, the kicker: "As a result of these communications, the diocese received reports from five additional former St. Stephen's students who alleged they were abused as minors or subjected to inappropriate sexual overtures dating back to the 1962-1963 school year."
It continues: "Canon Doyle was also contacted by one former St. James student, who reported that Tucker had sexually abused him. This individual told Canon Doyle that he had made a complaint in 1994, shortly after Tucker retired, to Bishop Bill Sterling (deceased). He said he had been provided with counseling and given assurances that Tucker was no longer going to be allowed to function as a priest." While the diocese confirmed that Sterling received that complaint, "There are no records that Bishop Sterling ever reported the complaint to anyone else at the Diocese." The four-decade interim between the abuse and the investigation proved an inconvenience. The timeline states: "Unfortunately, many who were with the Diocese at the time are now deceased. There is no information of what, if anything, was communicated by Becker to then-Bishop [James] Milton Richardson (deceased) in 1968."
In February 2008, an Ecclesiastical Court in Houston found Tucker guilty of "sexual misconduct," and he was subsequently defrocked. Tucker never showed to defend himself.
During the Praesidium investigation, the three plaintiffs say, Doyle and Wimberly seemed sincere in their promises to right decades of wrong. But when the men asked the diocese to pay for future therapy, they say, the school and the diocese responded by hiring lawyers.
The diocese hired Vinson & Elkins, Houston's go-to firm for priest molestation lawsuits. As attorneys for that firm have argued in cases for the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the first volley in this case was to get U.S. District Court Judge Janice Jack to dismiss it on the grounds that the claims were well past the expiration date dictated by the statute of limitations. And, as has happened in the Catholic abuse cases, Jack denied that motion and accepted the plaintiffs' lawyers' argument that the men were of "unsound mind" as a result of the abuse, and therefore not bound by the statute of limitations.
Moreover, in speaking with the diocese's attorney, Shadow Sloan, in a November 2008 pretrial hearing, Jack seemed to express her incredulity over the facts of the case.
Jack: "So the diocese kept [Tucker] in a position after a report of pedophilia, kept him in a position where he would interact with children from that point on until he was defrocked or something last year?"
Sloan: "Your Honor, again, this happened in 1968 —"
Jack: "I understand. Just answer my question."
Sloan: "The answer would be yes."
Jack: "He didn't even go with any warning from diocese to diocese?"
Sloan: "Not in 1968, Your Honor."
Jack: "Well, ever, in the 40 years until he was defrocked?"
And, after learning that Tucker was sent to St. James, where he worked with much younger children, Jack said: "You know, it reminded me of somebody that I had in here, a defendant one time, that when the children — fifth and sixth graders — complained, and the parents came and complained about inappropriate touching, they did a little adjustment...and put him with first graders, who were a little bit young to complain."
The plaintiffs say that, when they asked the diocese to pay for future therapy, the response was: Hey, we're Episcopalians — we don't have Catholic Church money.
The men and their lawyers wouldn't say how much they initially asked the diocese for, but it was probably less than the $45 million they now seek.
"We have heard, 'We want to do the right thing' repeatedly out of the mouth of...Bishop Wimberly and out of Doyle's mouth," Haslanger says. "...And then what they do is, they tell us they're going to depose our wives [and] they sent deposition requests to my pastor for my conversations with her. They're going at this in a very, very nasty way, and they're pretending on the surface to be such sweet and moral people. I don't see much morality in what they're doing....They're not acting in the way that we were taught at St. Stephen's to be moral. They have hidden this for 40 years, and right now they're doing everything they can do to confuse, obfuscate and to use the legal technicalities to avoid their responsibility."
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