Letters from the week of March 10, 2005

 Barely Legal

Amend the institution: Thank you for your insightful article regarding Father Dale Fushek ("Cross to Bare," Robert Nelson, February 24). My guess is there are many more victims of Father Dale's out there who may never come forward.

When is the Diocese of Phoenix going to start helping the victims in all of this? So far, the Diocese has done nothing. What is it going to take? Why do the parishioners continue to support the leadership of this Diocese?

If I were Catholic, I would be embarrassed. I would hide my head in shame and do everything possible to make right what the church has done. Instead, many Catholics continue to give their hard-earned cash each week to the Roman Catholic Church, which in turn continues to pay its lawyers to support child molesters and fight for what is wrong.

Just a week ago, Bishop Thomas Olmsted and St. Tim's Church parishioners were supporting Father Dale even though there was a pattern forming. What a messed-up religion!
John Starkey, Phoenix

The passion of the priest: If I tilt my head a bit and squint my eyes, Robert Nelson's "Cross to Bare" looks like investigative journalism. But eyes wide open, I see that it fits more neatly into the category of a witch hunt.

You know, an event where a handful of young people with an agenda go after the reputation of a good person.

And, hey, aren't most readers ready to believe that no guy in Phoenix with his collar on backward can be anything other than a plotting pedophile?

My background includes more than 30 years as a law enforcement officer, private investigator and criminal lawyer for both the prosecution and the defense. I've had the pleasure of getting the bad guys and the deep satisfaction of protecting the innocent from vicious lies. From that perspective, I kept wondering why a number of important investigative steps were missing from the story on Monsignor Dale Fushek.

Was Nelson not aware that the rectory at St. Timothy's is not the pastor's private space? Where are the interviews with the numerous other priests who have lived there? Did none of them notice the hordes of hanky-panky the alleged victims described? Has any expert on sex crimes ever heard of two and three molesters holding a convention to pester one particular boy? What was this boy doing going to Sedona with yet another pederast priest, and why was it that after years of living a gay sex life, the mere touch of a man in black suddenly released a flood of memories? Wouldn't all those other homosexual encounters have opened the gates just a little?

Why didn't Nelson point out that stories of striking similarity can be proof of a plotting predator or proof of fabrication?

The writer of the hatchet job done on Dale Fushek blatantly avoided talking to any of the thousands of Life Teen members who saw nothing like what was described, or the hundreds of men who have entrusted their sons to Fushek because they have been with him on their own retreats and been in his presence in honest talks.

Is it worth noting that some of the greatest spiritual leaders of the world have been with this man and not one of them got the impression he was a clever deceiver?

See, these are the kinds of questions an investigator learns to ask, preferably before his mind is made up. If you don't ask them, an innocent person can be put through hell, and the guilty are made to look like heroes.

I did like the title of the story, though. It reminds me of another occasion when a mob gathered around another good-hearted man and chanted: "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Charles Pyeatte, Chandler

Deviance is one thing, but . . . : Secular law holds that people are held innocent until proven guilty. In the particular case of Father Dale Fushek, it's my understanding that charges have not even been filed, that only an investigation is in progress.

I would add that with your article as my primary source of information on this issue, it seems that the only accusation of criminal significance levied against Father Fushek is an accusation that seems, on the face, to lack credibility.

The problem isn't that of repressed memory -- it's of common behavior. The behavior you ascribe to Father Fushek -- standing by masturbating while a 14-year-old boy is being sexually assaulted -- is astonishing. An ordinary human being does not let that happen even once.

Were that a repeated pattern of a habitual perpetrator, the claim might be more credible, but your journalist asks us to believe that this happened once, as a sort of lapse, more than 15 years ago. Asking us to believe that someone just once let his moral courage lag while succumbing to gross perversion and a felony asks much of our ability to suspend disbelief.

We can all be thankful that the law will ask for evidence that rises above a reasonable doubt to convict Father Fushek of this amazing charge.

Was your article in the interest of a community that deserves to know about grave lapses of character in its leaders -- or was it a hit piece by a journalist and editorial staff who've lost their way, a piece that simply delights in tearing down a respected religious figure?

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