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Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuit Moves Forward Against Phoenix Diocese, Salvatorians

PHOENIX – A new clergy sexual abuse lawsuit is moving forward against the Diocese of Phoenix and the Salvatorian religious order. The lawsuit alleges Father Dennis Pecore, a Salvatorian priest, sexually abused a child while he was assigned to St. Mark’s Catholic Church in the Phoenix Diocese.

Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor filed the lawsuit (CV2016-015552) in Maricopa County Superior Court on October 6, 2016.

Former Bishop Thomas O’Brien and the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians), assigned Father Dennis Pecore to St. Mark’s Catholic Parish in South Phoenix in 1982. While working for the Diocese of Phoenix, Father Pecore was assigned to:

  • • St. Mark’s Catholic Church and School;
  • • St. Philip the Deacon Catholic Center;
  • • the Arizona State Hospital;
  • • Maricopa County Medical Center;
  • • St. Luke’s Hospital;
  • • Phoenix Children’s Hospital and;
  • • the Hilton Rest Home.

The lawsuit alleges the Diocese of Phoenix, the Salvatorian order, and St. Mark’s Catholic Church engaged in a pattern and practice of covering up clergy sexual abuse. After Pecore was transferred out of the Diocese of Phoenix, he was given assignments in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where he was convicted of child sexual abuse:

  • • In 1987, Pecore pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy in a local Catholic school and was sentenced to one year in jail.
  • • In 1994, Pecore was convicted of sexually abusing his own young nephew, and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
  • • In 1995, the Catholic Church defrocked Father Pecore.
  • • In 2002, a sex abuse survivor came forward and said they had been sexually as a minor by Pecore in the mid-1970s at Holy Trinity Parish in Glen Burnie, Maryland, prior to Pecore’s assignments in Phoenix.
  • • Details of Father Dennis Pecore’s assignments can be found on the BishopAccountability website: http://www.bishopaccountability.org/assign/Pecore_Dennis_SDS.htm

In addition to approving Father Pecore’s assignments in the Diocese of Phoenix, former Bishop Thomas O’Brien assigned other pedophile priests to St. Mark’s Catholic Church, the lawsuit alleges. Father Joseph Henn was assigned to St. Mark’s Catholic Church from 1976 to 1979. In 2003, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Father Henn on thirteen counts of child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, just days before an Italian court granted extradition to Maricopa County to face the charges, Father Joseph Henn disappeared. Father Joseph Henn remains at large and is listed as a fugitive on the Interpol Website.

In May 2003 in an agreement with then County Attorney Rick Romley, Bishop Thomas O’Brien admitted he put children in the Phoenix Diocese at risk by transferring priests accused of sexual abuse and failing to notify parishioners that their children were in danger.

Robert E. Pastor, the attorney for the victim stated, “When Catholic priests sexually abuse children, they destroy the physical, psychological and spiritual life of that child. The secrecy that continues to surround clergy sexual abuse must stop. It is time for the Catholic Church to stop protecting pedophile priests and live up to its promise to protect children including those who have been traumatically harmed by sexual abuse. Those who have been victims of sexual abuse should call police immediately.”