News

Let Up Prey

In its answer to the lawsuit, the diocese admits that Father George molested the children but denies negligence.

Father George, who has a separate lawyer, denies he even molested the boys or that he was negligent. In his answer to the lawsuit, he asks that the case be dismissed. The names of all victims and their families, the church volunteer who first called police about Bredemann, a nun who works in the diocese and the former top-level diocesan priest have been changed in this article. INTRODUCTION to priest feature

On May 26, 1984, Father John Maurice Giandelone, a Roman Catholic priest and a teacher at Bourgade High School, visited his favorite Catholic family at their home. After chatting for a few minutes with the parents, Father John strolled into their fifteen-year-old son's bedroom and quietly shut the door. When the boy's father walked into the room a few minutes later, he discovered that Father John had just performed oral sex on the boy.

Father John eventually admitted he'd had a sexual relationship with the same boy for two years--he even molested the boy just before Mass in the rectory of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Chandler. In August 1985, another local Catholic priest, Father Joseph Marcel Lessard of St. Jerome's, was arrested for sexually abusing a thirteen-year-old boy. Father Joe performed oral sex on the youth while trying out the boy's waterbed at the family's home. The boy's unsuspecting parents--devoted Catholics--were resting in an adjoining bedroom.

After the youth screamed to his parents that Father Joe was "doing homosexual things" to him, the priest insisted the boy "must have been dreaming." Later, Father Joe admitted to the act and called it a "spur of the moment thing" that he couldn't explain. On December 1, 1988, yet another priest from the Diocese of Phoenix, Father George Bredemann of St. Catherine's in South Phoenix, was arrested for sexually abusing three boys, ages eight, ten and thirteen, at his ramshackle desert hideaway he called the "Castle."

Father George at first denied molesting any boys. He later confessed he'd molested many boys before he became a priest in middle age. He admitted sexually abusing another boy at St. Teresa's Parish in Scottsdale--his first parish assignment. He also eventually confessed to molesting the three boys at the Castle.

A New Times investigation reveals that in each of the three local cases, the diocese buried its head in the sand by ignoring early warnings that the priests might be pedophiles--adults who crave sex with children.

After their arrests, none of the three priests was fired, although all were immediately suspended from parish work until they'd completed psychological treatment. Two still are priests today; one eventually quit the priesthood.

In all three local cases, the priests had worked hard to befriend the parents to gain their trust and access to their children. When caught, all three initially denied having sexual relations with their victims. And numerous people, clergy and lay, defended the priests. In some instances, the victims' families--not the priests--were ostracized by their fellow Catholics.

Diocesan officials spent more time and money on the offending priests than on the victims. The priests were prosecuted for their crimes, but in each case the diocese asked judges for--and received--lenient sentences and paid for months of expensive, highly specialized professional counseling for the offending clerics.

A Catholic order, the Servants of the Paraclete, maintains a center in the northern New Mexico mountains that treats pedophile priests. No such center--or even a formal counseling procedure locally--exists for the victims, who are especially vulnerable and in need of counseling.

In the three local cases, most of the victims came from troubled families and at least three had been sexually abused before. One victim was sexually abusing his sisters during the same time Father George was molesting him.

The diocese's attempts to heal victims through counseling varied from case to case. Three victims say they received no offers of counseling; others say they were counseled by parish priests. The priest-counselors, of course, were faced with an innate conflict: Should they protect the Church as an institution by suggesting that the victims put the incidents behind them and forgive the offending priests, or should they be more concerned about the emotional damage inflicted on the victims?

The local incidents have occurred while the Church nationally is facing a critical shortage of applicants for the priesthood. And the Church's own documents warn that there is a wave of pedophilia in the priesthood that could cost the Church an avalanche of bad publicity and billions of dollars in legal expenses.

A former priest-administrator in the diocese says Bishop Thomas O'Brien, the current diocese head, has tried to cover up sex cases not because he was defending the pedophiles but because he was trying to protect the Church.

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Terry Greene