Threatened with criminal indictment for concealing pedophilic priests, Bishop Thomas O’Brien of the Diocese of Phoenix signed an agreement early last month, securing his own immunity from prosecution. Under terms of the agreement with Maricopa County Attorney’s office, O’Brien admitted he allowed priests accused of abuse to continue working with children and transferred them without disclosing information about allegations against them, reported the Arizona Republic. The agreement bars O’Brien– who was denied resignation by the Vatican– from handling accusations of priest sex abuse. Instead, he will relinquish limited authority to newly appointed officials, including a chief of staff, a youth protection advocate, and a special counsel. While terms also stipulate payment for victims’ counseling by the diocese, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, expressed disappointment with the deal’s outcome, telling the Arizona Daily Star, “It’s very troubling… Had there been true repentance and conversion last summer, O’Brien and the other bishops would have come clean months ago.”
The Phoenix Diocese serves nearly 500,000 Catholics. Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley yesterday said two other priests in the diocese could face charges.