UPDATE: Bishop responds to abuse lawsuit in southern Arizona

Sexual abuse from church decades ago

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new state law that allows survivors of sexual abuse more time to make claims against their perpetrators has provided new hope for a man making claims against the Episcopal Church of Arizona.

In a complaint filed in Superior Court in Pima County, Charlie Taylor claims he was sexually abused by a priest assigned to Grace St. Paul’s in Tucson when Taylor was 12 years old. Taylor had previously attempted a civil suit years ago, but said he didn’t make it far because of the statute of limitations.

"This new law is wonderful because other folks can get justice as well," he said.

Taylor’s complaint claims both church staff and the diocese knew about the alleged abuse and did not do enough to stop it. He’s represented by Herman Law, a firm that works mainly with clients making similar claims of surviving sexual abuse. Krisel McSweeney from the firm accompanied Taylor and local attorney Justin Allred at a press conference outside the courthouse.

"Sexual abuse towards children is rampant. It’s one of the most vulnerable populations," she said. "Charlie’s case is very strong."

The date of this story’s original publication, the diocese provided a letter Bishop Jennifer Reddall shared with Grace St. Paul’s this weekend. It states complaints like this are taken seriously, it will be investigated and the diocese will respond appropriately.

Bishop Reddall answered questions regarding the lawsuit and Taylor’s history with the diocese on Tuesday. She said the priest named in Taylor’s complaint voluntarily left the church and renounced his orders after other allegations were made in the 70s. In regards to Taylor’s alleged report from decades ago, the diocese is conducting its own investigation.

“I think we have a pretty complete file on what happened in 1978 and 79, but…40 years later, I don’t know exactly what happened but I’m pretty confident that what we have demonstrates that the diocese behaved appropriately to the time,” said Reddall.

The bishop cited parishioners and staff members being harassed by Taylor over the years, which led to restraining orders barring him from church properties. Taylor said his actions were attempts at sparking change in the congregations.

"Basically, what I was trying to do, is say ‘Church, wake up...wake up! Take ownership and do what is necessary to help these victims who are suffering’,” said Taylor.

He said a preferred outcome would be a settlement that involves the forming of a commission to help alleged victims like himself and bring about change in the diocese. Reddall believes that already exists in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

“I mean that’s kind of the conversation the church has been having for the last 30 years or so,” she said. "So we already have the pieces in place that he wants to see.

Anyone who might’ve failed to make a claim sooner because of the previous two-year statute of limitations can now make one anytime before the end of 2020, according to House Bill 2466. It also raises the burden of proof higher than a typical civil lawsuit and removes the ability to seek punitive damages.

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