In anticipation of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (“SAAM”) in April, Forester Haynie is partnering with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (“SNAP”) to hold a press conference on Monday, March 29, 2021 in front of St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson, Arizona, to expose an ongoing effort by the Diocese of Tucson, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and St. John’s Seminary to coverup the sexual abuse of minors. Despite credible allegations made by two of our clients against Fr. Charles Knapp. To date, Fr. Charles Knapp has not been investigated by law enforcement and remains in active ministry.
In July 2019, Diana Almader-Douglas stepped forward to report she was molested by Fr. Knapp from St. Bernard Parish in her Pirtleville home when she was five years old.
I was targeted, groomed, abused during a time in which Charles Knapp, based on a rotating schedule maintained by the parish secretary, was hosted for meals in the homes of parishioners, many with young children, under the pretense of saving St. Bernard money. I was made to believe that my parents would die should I tell, so I never did. On top of the abuse, my catechism teacher repeatedly accosted me with accusations of being a sinner, and threats that the devil would come get me because of what I had done. Soon after I was abused, the priest left St. Bernard. He then served in Eloy, Safford, Yuma, Nogales, Phoenix and Tucson, a pattern of movement common among clergy known by the diocese to be abusers.Read Diana’s entire victim impact statement here.
Diana directly reported the abuse to Bishop Weisenburger and the Diocese of Tucson. After a flimsy “investigation” by the Diocese of Tucson’s “Human Resources Consultant,” Richard Serrano—later identified by Bishop Weisenburger as the Diocese of Tucson’s “independent investigator”—Diana received a letter in August 2019 from Bishop Weisenburger informing her the Diocese’s “Review Board” was “not recommend[ing] to [Bishop Weisenburger] any restriction of Fr. Knapp’s ministry.” Despite the fact Diana was never contacted by law enforcement, Diana was further told by Bishop Weisenburger “The Police” had declined to investigate any allegations against Fr. Knapp.
After receiving this letter, Diana met with Bishop Weisenburger in October 2019 to relay concerns for children to which Fr. Knapp might have access. Bishop Weisenburger said that the abusive priest “was much needed” in ministry and was not a risk to children. Fr. Knapp was permitted by Bishop Weisenburger to continue serving in active ministry, working with vulnerable populations on Davis–Monthan Air Force Base and within the criminal justice system. Diana was sent away with an apology, a prayer, and an offer of 10 counseling sessions with the diocesan counselor.
Forester Haynie has filed a racketeering (“RICO”) lawsuit against the Diocese of Tucson, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and St. John’s Seminary, because they have produced and funneled a disproportionate number of sexual predators to Tucson, a known “dumping ground for abusive priests.” According to a Los Angeles Times investigation, a third of priests that graduated from St. John’s 1966 and 1972 seminary classes were later accused of molestation. Forester Haynie has added Diana as a third plaintiff to the lawsuit. “Jane Doe,” Diana’s childhood neighbor and best friend, who was also sexually molested by Fr. Knapp, and any other survivors with similar allegations, will be added in a second amended complaint.
In response to this lawsuit, the Diocese of Tucson has not refuted Diana’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Fr. Charles Knapp—who remains in active ministry and has not been named to the Diocese’s credibly accused list. Instead, the Diocese claims the lawsuit is barred by its 2004 bankruptcy filing and the statute of limitations. In a July 2020 letter to Diana’s attorneys, the Diocese of Tucson claimed, “any tort claims arising out of actions that occurred prior to the date the Diocese declared bankruptcy have been discharged.”
In addition to federal and state law, Forester Haynie submits the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have also violated canon law by allowing Fr. Knapp, a graduate of St. John’s Seminary, to continue active ministry. Both the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have publicly stated their commitment to use “pastoral care” to help anyone who may be a victim and cooperate with law enforcement authorities as required by the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons (Norm 11) and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002.
The USCCB adopted a multi-layered approach to reviewing, evaluating, and investigating allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in 2002. In addition to violating state and federal laws, Forester Haynie submits the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Tucson have violated canon law due to their continued failure to:
- investigate or conduct timely, independent, sufficient, or reasonable internal investigations into Plaintiff’s allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor;
- seek or reasonably document the assessments of allegations by an advisory board established to assist the bishop’s evaluation of sexual abuse claims;
- refer or timely refer unassignable priests to the Vatican authority with oversight of the
- adjudication of claims of clergy sexual abuse of minors;
- inquire into violations of the Charter and the Essential Norms;
- and prepare accurate business records regarding accused priests.
While it may seem intuitive that a survivor would disclose abuse when it happened, data from CHILD USA reveals a different reality; in a study of over 1,000 survivors, the average age at the time of reporting child sex abuse was about 52 years. Sadly, data from the Department of Justice suggests that 86% of child sexual abuse goes unreported altogether.
RAINN reports “[e]very 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.” Forester Haynie encourages any other survivors of child sexual abuse who have been silenced to step forward. Exposing sexual assault is the first step toward stopping it.