The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix acknowledged that about 50 priests, former priests and church employees have been accused of criminal sexual misconduct with minors in the diocese over the past 30 years.
Bishop Thomas O’Brien also said the diocese has paid close to $2 million to settle 12 to 15 lawsuits involving sexual abuse or sexual harassment since he became bishop in 1982, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.
The bishop said some of those were accused were convicted or acquitted, and “a large number” of priests and employees faced accusations that investigators found were untrue or meritless.
The revelations came in response to questions the newspaper submitted to O’Brien nearly two weeks ago. Parishioners learned of his response at evening services Saturday.
O’Brien said he couldn’t identify any individuals because a grand jury is investigating the church’s handling of sex-abuse allegations.
A nationwide sex abuse scandal involving clergy broke in January with the trial of a priest in Massachusetts and admissions by church officials that the accused priest had been moved from parish to parish. Since then, at least 325 priests nationwide have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned. U.S. bishops are meeting this week in Washington to vote on a revised policy for dealing with priests accused of molestation.