Diocese of Arizona faces allegations of historical abuse

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The Diocese of Arizona and Grace St Paul’s Episcopal Church face a lawsuit over allegations that credible accusations of sexual abuse involving a now-deceased priest were ignored.

KVOA.com reports:

Charles Taylor said he suffered abuse at the hands of now-deceased Father Richard Babcock in the early 1970s when he was just twelve years old.

“The church is supposed to be a place of healing,” Taylor said in a press conference on Monday. “[It’s supposed to be] a place of reconciliation, not of sexual abuse.”

In the complaint, filed this month in Pima County Superior Court, Taylor’s attorneys claimed the church and Diocese were negligent and breached their fiduciary duty.

Taylor’s complaint details the allegations of abuse, and lists individuals and entities who, it says, knew of the abuse. It accuses the parish and diocese of reassigning Babcock at the time in an effort to avoid further scrutiny, and claims that Babcock confessed before his death to abuse of minor children.

KVOA.com also published a letter from Bishop Jennifer Reddall to the people of Grace St Paul’s regarding the lawsuit. It reads, in part,

Grace St. Paul’s, the Diocese and the Episcopal Church all take seriously every complaint of alleged misconduct by any church employee, regardless of how long ago the misconduct was alleged to have occurred. … Our churches seek to be safe places for children and adults to worship, learn and serve.

We will be reviewing Mr. Taylor’s complaint, and will take all appropriate steps to investigate and respond. …

Some of you may have heard of Mr. Taylor’s allegations and actions against the Diocese and Grace St. Paul’s in the past. He and his claims have been known to us for many years, but despite repeated legal action, we have never been able to come to satisfactory resolution. The court eventually provided us with an injunction preventing him from visiting or contacting Episcopal Churches after several incidents. I pray that this time we will be able to find a resolution that is faithful to our call as Christians, and mindful of our role as stewards of our churches.

Read the full letter here.

According to KVOA, Taylor first attempted to sue the church in 1991, but was prevented by the statute of limitations. A recent Arizona Bill suspends the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse, however old, until the end of 2020.

At its last General Convention, the Episcopal Church suspended its own statute of limitations on reports of clergy sexual abuse until the end of 2021. There is no statute of limitations in the church canons on reporting abuse against people under the age of 21.

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