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?

What does your article mean about the soul of the person who wrote it and of those who published it, if it turns out that Father Fushek is wholly exonerated? What if Father Fushek is a totally innocent man? We can only hope, for the soul of writer Robert Nelson, that he personally is absolutely convinced of Father Fushek's guilt. If he has any personal doubts, then he is guilty of a capital case of character assassination.
Daniel C. Wood, Tempe

Passing the hell-bound baton: Robert Nelson, who wrote the article, and Mark Poutenis, who inked the very clever cover illustration, are in for a hellish ride for daring to uncover the accusations against Monsignor Dale Fushek.

I know. As a political columnist (and make no mistake, much church activity is political), I questioned the actions of vicar-general Fushek back in June of 2003.

Lord of Mercy, I might as well have called Mother Teresa a wanton woman for all the vicious hate mail and threats to my safety that ensued! Good luck to you both. And thanks for the long-overdue expos.

The amazing thing is that some followers will defend their guilty clergy all the way to hell. The cover design was brilliantly shocking.
Becky Fenger, columnist, East Valley Tribune

She Said, She Said

Don't give them ideas: The cover of New Times certainly caught my attention recently, and not in a favorable way. The cover shows a beauty queen with a knife protruding in dramatic fashion from her back ("Drop Dead, Gorgeous," Sarah Fenske, February 17). Although I fully comprehend the intended message, I find it horrendous that you would contribute in any manner to a visualization depicting violence against women.

Your publication is prominently displayed on the streets of our cities and in or near business establishments. There are many who will fully digest the intended meaning of this particular graphic. There are also those who will not, those who will take the thought one step further.

One in five women is a victim of domestic violence; for that matter, one in three men is a victim, as well. Nowhere do we need in any manner to contribute to the notion that violence against anyone is acceptable.
Billie K. Fidlin, Glendale

Good news is no news: I am writing in response to the article "Drop Dead, Gorgeous." As a former Miss Arizona, I was disappointed to see that it takes a scandal -- if this can rightly be called that -- for our program to make front-page news.

I competed in the Miss America system for four years, culminating in my year as Miss Arizona in 2002. In that position, I had the unique privilege of working with our state pageant's executive director Monica Rich.

Sandwiched in time as I was between the two young ladies profiled in the feature, I was flabbergasted to read the unsupported allegations about Ms. Rich. Why is it that I held the same job in roughly the same time period, working with the same executive director, and yet have such a different experience?

I received all that was promised to me in my contract, as well as tangible and intangible benefits (generous scholarships, limitless leadership opportunities, media exposure and speaking engagements) too numerous to recount. In all of our personal and professional interactions, I found Ms. Rich to be fair, capable and generous to a fault. Monica shared with me her friendship and kindness without bounds.

Had New Times chosen to embrace the positive aspects of this program instead of the unfortunate (and still, to me, inexplicable) experiences of these two young women, it would discover physicians, attorneys, artists and entrepreneurs whose educations and careers were jump-started by their participation in this scholarship program.

Instead, we have two tragedies. One involves the two women who earned an enviable job and valuable scholarship dollars yet have bitter memories. The other is that this story may dissuade deserving contestants from seeking their share of the $40 million in scholarships that the Miss America program makes available each year.

I would encourage journalists to feature the selfless community service and achievements of Katherine Kennedy, Miss Arizona for 2004. As a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence, I'm sure she can relate stories more compelling, more socially relevant and certainly more deserving of a cover story than the reflections of past pageant winners.
Laura Lawless, via the Internet

Regime change: Great article on the Miss Arizona system. Talk about a well-intentioned program in shambles under corrupt leadership! You guys are the best at exposing the corruption -- keep up the good work and get that woman [Monica Rich] fired!
Hannah Boucher, via the Internet

Role model needed: In this day and age, when society is so wanting for positive examples for our youth, I find it deplorable that Monica Rich hasn't yet been removed from her position with the Miss Arizona contest. After reading "Drop Dead, Gorgeous," I think this is yet another example of the unfortunate abdication of ethics and responsible supervision. Those girls deserve better!
Arlene Moord, Kalamazoo, Michigan

She's fired: I can't believe the insensitivity and hatred that this Monica character expressed toward Corrie Hill and the other contestants! Good grief!

Whatever happened to fair play, honesty and the joy of entertaining competition? Is she so incredibly power-mad that she can't allow anyone the freedom to express herself in her own way? This pageant isn't about her, or maybe, in her sick mind, that's all it's about! Where's Donald Trump when you need him?
Name withheld by request


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