Resigned Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien would have faced obstruction-of-justice charges for ordering a top aide to stonewall investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by priests if he had not signed an immunity agreement in May, The Arizona Republic reports.
A transcript of a conversation with former priest Joseph C. Ladensack, who once supervised Catholic schools in the diocese, quotes O’Brien as saying about sex abuse cases, “You have to come to me first, I will handle these things… ‘You owe me obedience.’ ”
Ladensack told investigators that O’Brien ordered him to persuade at least one family to withdraw a criminal complaint. The documents were released yesterday; they had been requested by The Arizona Republic under the state’s open-records law.
O’Brien avoided indictment by signing the immunity agreement in which he admitted endangering children and quietly transferring priests accused of sexual misconduct. Two weeks after the agreement was made public, O’Brien was accused of being the driver in a fatal hit-and-run accident and resigned.
The Arizona Republic concluded that the newly released documents, together with contradictions from other public records, show that the bishop could have been charged with obstructing justice and possibly other crimes.