Cross to Bare

For 20 years Dale Fushek was the golden boy of the Phoenix Catholic Diocese. Now, his golden boys are talking

And in 1995, the Phoenix Diocese quietly settled a sexual-harassment claim against Fushek by a former Life Teen employee.

Fushek has described that case, which was blanketed with a confidentiality agreement, as a misunderstanding by the former worker.

"Several years ago," Fushek told his parishioners at St. Tim's in 2002, "I found myself in a situation where my own words and actions, which I considered to be words and actions of affection, were interpreted by an adult staff member as having sexual connotations."

Former bishop Thomas O'Brien, Fushek's longtime 
Former bishop Thomas O'Brien, Fushek's longtime mentor.
Fushek (right) kneels beside new Bishop Thomas 
Olmsted at Olmsted's installation as leader of the 
Phoenix Diocese in December 2003. Olmsted later 
demoted Fushek.
AP/Wide World Photos
Fushek (right) kneels beside new Bishop Thomas Olmsted at Olmsted's installation as leader of the Phoenix Diocese in December 2003. Olmsted later demoted Fushek.

In an extensive interview with New Times, the victim in that case, Jim Partsch, paints a much less innocent picture of Fushek's actions and intentions. He says Fushek obsessively questioned him about his sexual practices and desires and, on several occasions, cajoled Partsch into bathing naked with him in Fushek's hot tub at the St. Tim's rectory.

"My only goal in complaining back then was to get Dale the therapy he needed," Partsch says from his home in Colorado. "He agreed he needed treatment, but then he just turned it all around. You end up finding out he's an amazingly manipulative human being."

Partsch's former fiancée, who lived in Mesa during Partsch's time with Life Teen, agreed with Partsch's assessment.

"There was so much emotional and sexual manipulation," says Rini Montano, who now lives in California. "Jim was a wreck for quite a while after he got away from Fushek. [Father Dale] completely messed with Jim's mind."

Fushek's emotional and sexual manipulation of Partsch appears to be, at least among young men Fushek brought into the inner circle of the group, more the rule than the exception.

Cesolini's attorney, for example, says he now has 50 witnesses who will be called in the case, many of them people who contacted him with information and allegations regarding Fushek.

A similar wave of information is hitting the state's support group for victims of priest abuse.

"We're beginning to hear this same story again and again," says Paul Pfaffenberger, leader of the Arizona chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "That there was unwanted sexual contact by Dale Fushek, and that it came about through this very manipulative grooming process associated with Life Teen. There is definitely a pattern of behavior beginning to form."

But while a pattern of grossly inappropriate behavior seems clear in Fushek's past, county prosecutors say criminal actions will be much harder to prove. There are statute-of-limitations issues regarding several statements by victims. Fushek has yet to be accused of penetrating anyone, minor or young adult, male, female, consensual or otherwise. And for the most part, Fushek apparently knew the law regarding sexual assault on a minor better than most cops.

"That's the other pattern," Pfaffenberger says. "For most of these guys, the really heavy stuff didn't start until after they were 18."

In three cases, Fushek is accused of getting naked and inviting teens into his bed for back rubs and tickling fests within one month of their 18th birthdays.

"These guys were all adults -- technically," Pfaffenberger says. "It was like he kept all their birthdays on a special calendar."

Dale Fushek, now 52, has described his own adolescence as a difficult, confusing time.

And like many young Catholics in the 1960s and early 1970s, he found the church a joyless place that had little relevance in his life.

Fushek was born in Cleveland. After his family moved to the Valley in 1960, he attended Central High School in Phoenix.

He has told different stories about why his high school years were difficult.

Partsch and Montano both say Fushek was clear on several occasions that he believed he struggled with questions about his sexuality.

"Father Dale was saying that, at that time, people didn't come out about being homosexual," Montano says. It was his cross to bear. She remembers Fushek's saying that "for a lot of guys in that situation, the seminary was a sort of safe haven."

It didn't mean much to Partsch and Montano at the time. Who cared? A sizable percentage of priests in the Phoenix Diocese were homosexual.

As one former diocesan official tells New Times: "About the only guys you could assume were straight were the 'FBIs' -- the Foreign-Born Irish."

The fact is, studies show, most priests maintain their vows of celibacy -- except, perhaps, for a dalliance or two. There are those, however, who chronically violate their oath. Most of the chronics either date other priests or have discreet relationships with adult partners. The identities of the celibates, straight or gay, and the names of the clerics who take their vows far less seriously are poorly kept secrets inside Phoenix's sometimes catty priest community.

There is a smaller group that clearly likes young males.

There is a still smaller group -- including Lehman, George Bredemann, Lessard, John Giandelone -- that likes children. They are pedophiles.

Between, there are the pederasts, the priests who like adolescent boys.

Which leads to this point:

There is a very fine line -- a single day, in fact -- between criminal pederasty, statutory rape and legal sexual contact between two adults.

And then, further graying the grayest of areas, there's the Clintonian question of what exactly is sex?

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My Voice Nation Help

Bishop Olmsted after reading Dale Fushek book, you are one dirty bastard and you need to go to hell, what a scum bag MF it's to bad your mother could have avoid us this pain that we are feeling by having an abortion. We hate you bastard don't come to Sun City West any time soon.

Sun City West Bill
Sun City West Bill

Bishop took action on Fushek, we have a PERVERT from Canada David Ostler has been here five years at two catholic churches he can't live in Sun City West he is not 55years old the bishop assigned him here to keep him away from children.


The New Times is a joke. To even consider your liberal paper would even give this great man the benefit of the doubt would be impossible.

Your paper, your staff and writers are a despicable bunch of anti-Christian type.. we know this. You might fool a few underaged kids, but not us who are in the know.

I know this man and very well I might add. You, along with your noisey evil followers, the AZ Republic, jumped all over this man with vigorous hate.. I have never seen the like. And why? Because some snot-nose little jerks (including Mark Tropio - his dad never did like "FD") didn't get to head Life Teen - so they plotted revenge. Yes I know the facts, and Msgr. Dale was/is totally innocent.

The sumbag lawyers and shrinks all had a hand in manufacturing this bunch of lies - to what end??? For $40,000.. Wow.. To ruin a man for money while your ignorant stinking paper writes the lies to condemn this man. Shame on you and your staff for adding insult to injury.

Msgr. Dale is innocent, whether you like it or not. That is fact and truth. He also built Life Teen, and the most awesome parish in the country.. and it took a bunch of loser liberal evil newspapers, filty lawyers, and corrupt shrinks over many years to crucify this great man.. and he carries his cross well.

Msgr. Dale will not seek revenge. He is a man of God and one who forgives.. He is bigger than us.. He is better than us... He has done God's work.. I am proof of this. He brought me back "home" - back to Church, back home to God and Jesus Christ!

I thank God for Msgr. Dale Fushek.. If you read this "FD", know that you are loved and missed by thousands of your flock.

To the New Times.. your paper is trash.. it caters to people who are unknowning, unsuspecting, ignorant, people who have yet to realize the love of God.

I pray your paper goes out of business by 2010.

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