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Former Altar Boy Sues 2 Arizona Dioceses

Sep 5, 2002 | The Arizona Republic

A former altar boy at St. Gregory's Catholic Church in central Phoenix has sued the dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, alleging an associate pastor there sexually abused him in the mid-1960s.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Pima County Superior Court by Thomas Groom of Phoenix and his parents, Michael and Emma, contends the late Rev. Robert Gluch started abusing Thomas in 1965, when he was 13, and continued to do so for two years. The complaint says Groom suppressed the memories until May 2001, when he heard news reports about molestations of altar boys by priests in Tucson.

Gluch was among 15 priests on a list issued by the Tucson Diocese in June who had "credible" accusations of child abuse against them.

One of the Grooms' attorneys, Kim Williamson of Tucson, said she expects other victims at St. Gregory to be identified as the case proceeds. The Groom family is declining to speak publicly until the case is resolved, she said.

The lawsuit also names as a defendant Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien, who was Gluch's colleague at St. Gregory. It says O'Brien had a duty to supervise Gluch, who was newly ordained, and that he should have known about Gluch's behavior.

Phoenix Diocese spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes said O'Brien did not know about Gluch's activities, nor did he have authority over him. The alleged incidents took place before the Phoenix Diocese was formed in 1969, she said.

Williamson said the Grooms tried to resolve the case "by taking the (Tucson) Diocese up on its public expressions of support for victims," expressed after the national bishops meeting in Dallas in June. "We were willing to mediate," she said, "but we got nowhere with them."

Fred Allison, spokesman for the Tucson Diocese, said the diocese did not have enough time to respond to the Grooms' demands, especially the one asking for $4 million, because the diocese's insurance carriers "were unresponsive."

He said the diocese remains open to resolving the case.

Williamson said she and her partner, Lynne Cadigan, are filing two more lawsuits against the Tucson Diocese this week, following up on a multimillion-dollar settlement of 11 lawsuits reached in January on behalf of 10 victims.

Allison said it was premature to speculate about the financial impact of the new lawsuits upon the diocese.

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