The Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been named in a federal racketeering lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses the dioceses of violating Arizona’s racketeering laws by concealing child sex abuse allegations against priests. The lawsuits also claim the dioceses moved accused priests to different parishes instead of reporting the allegations to law enforcement.
These lawsuits were filed before the Arizona “look back” window closed on December 31, 2020.
California Priests With A History Of Abuse Moved To Arizona
According to the lawsuit, California priests with a history of abuse allegations were often transferred to Arizona. The lawsuit alleges many accused priests were transferred to Tucson, “a known ‘dumping ground’ for abusive priests.”
In particular, the lawsuit claims priests who attended St. John’s Seminary in California were among those frequently transferred to Tucson. According to a 2005 report in the Los Angeles Times, since 1950, about 10% of graduates from St. John’s Seminary who have been ordained were accused of sexual abuse.
These transfers allegedly occurred to help the accused priests avoid attention in California and continue abusing new victims.
According to the lawsuit, “The pattern of racketeering between these two dioceses created a pervasive culture where the sexual abuse of minors was not only accepted but embraced by many active clergy in Tucson.”
Survivors have filed similar lawsuits in Arizona courts. In October 2020, two lawsuits were filed against the Texas Diocese of Corpus Christi. The lawsuits allege a sexually abusive priest from the Texas diocese was transferred to Arizona to avoid scandal.
Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Tucson Diocese Priests
In this latest lawsuit filed in December 2020, two victims made clergy abuse allegations against priests who were transferred to Arizona. The two accused clergy members are Father Robert Gluch and Father Carlos Cocio.
Abuse Allegation Against Father Bob Gluch
George Brogdon, an altar boy at Apostle Catholic Church in Sierra Vista, alleges Father Robert Gluch sexually abused him in 1978. At the time, Gluch was an associate pastor running the church’s youth groups.
When Brogdon’s mother learned about the abuse, they reported it to the head of the Diocese of Tucson, Bishop Francis Joseph Green. As a result, Gluch was transferred to a church in Bisbee, Arizona. He returned to Tucson in 1984.
Brogdon is not the only victim to come forward with allegations against Gluch.
“I have not yet today healed, but I am trying to move forward one day at a time. Every time you speak out, you let go a little more. My heart goes out to anyone else that went through this.”
After Gluch was transferred, the Diocese of Tucson replaced him with Father Kevin Barmasse. Barmasse also faced many abuse allegations. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid a $660 million settlement in 2007 to hundreds of victims, including five victims who were abused during Barmasse’s time in Tucson.
Abuse Allegation Against Father Carlos Cocio
Lauro Garcia was another victim who alleged abuse in the lawsuit. Garcia attended a church choir trip in June 1980 to celebrate an ordination. On the trip, the choir visited the Cathedral of Saint Augustine in Tucson.
While there, Garcia met Father Carlos Cocio. Cocio had been a seminary student at St. John’s. Garcia expressed his interest in becoming a priest, and Cocio encouraged him to come back to Tucson after the celebration. While alone, Garcia alleges Cocio raped him repeatedly.
When Garcia reported the sexual abuse to clergy members at his church, he claims they laughed at him. Garcia alleges one of these clergy members later sexually assaulted him.
In an interview with AZ Mirror, Garcia said, “Nobody deserves to go through this type of trauma.”
Diocese Of Tucson Responds To Allegations
The Diocese of Tucson released a statement in regard to these allegations.
“The Diocese has offered its apologies to the plaintiffs for what they allege they endured at the hands of the two former priests named in their complaint. The Diocese has also offered to pay for counseling for the plaintiffs should they feel that counseling would benefit them.”
The diocese also stated the complaint had been handed to law enforcement in compliance with established protocols.
Help For Arizona Survivors
In 2019, Arizona’s governor signed HB 2466 into law. This bill offered two provisions to help sex abuse survivors.
The state opened a one-year “look back” window, which gave more survivors the opportunity to file a legal claim against their abuser or a responsible institution. The racketeering lawsuit filed against the Tucson Diocese and the Los Angeles Archdiocese was filed before this legal window closed on December 31, 2020.
The bill also extended the statute of limitations to file civil claims. A survivor of sexual assault has until their 30th birthday to file a claim against their abuser. Previously, survivors could file a lawsuit up until they turned 20 years old.
Foster, B. (2007, July 17). Five Tucson Victims Share Los Angeles Diocese Payout. KOLD News 13.
MacDonald-Evoy, J. (2020, October 15). Corpus Christi Diocese sued under Arizona sex abuse law. AZ Mirror.
MacDonald-Evoy, J. (2021, January 19). Tucson diocese being sued for racketeering over alleged sex abuse. AZ Mirror.
Pringle, P. (2005, November 17). Trail of Abuse Leads to Seminary. Los Angeles Times.