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Diocese of Phoenix, Religious Order and Phoenix Parish Sued for Clergy Sexual Abuse

2/11/2020 7:53:00 AM
Lawsuits Name Indicted Predator and Fugitive Fr. Joseph Henn and Two Additional Salvatorian Order Perpetrator Priests

 Courageous Survivor of Abuse by Convicted Predator Fr. Dennis Pecore to Speak Publicly for the First Time

(Phoenix, Arizona) – Tuesday in Phoenix, a courageous survivor, an advocate and the law firms of Jeff Anderson & Associates PA and Montoya, Lucero & Pastor, P.A. will:

Discuss and reveal two new clergy sexual abuse lawsuits brought under Arizona’s historic new victims’ rights bill (HB2466) against the Diocese of Phoenix, The Society of the Divine Savior religious order (“Salvatorians”) and St. Mark Parish in Phoenix for sexual abuse by three Salvatorian priests who worked at St. Mark. The abuse occurred from approximately the mid-1970s to 1980. The three predator priests are Fr. Joseph Henn, S.D.S.; Fr. Donald R. Verhagen, S.D.S.; and Fr. James Bretl, S.D.S.

A courageous survivor of abuse by another Salvatorian priest, Fr. Dennis Pecore, S.D.S., will speak publicly for the first time. In 2016, the survivor filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix, the Salvatorians and St. Mark for abuse by Fr. Pecore, in approximately 1982-83, while Fr. Pecore was working at St. Mark. The case is still in suit and pending. Fr. Pecore is twice-convicted of sexually abusing children. He abused multiple children in the Diocese of Phoenix and elsewhere. He was laicized in 1995 and is believed to be living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is unknown whether he has access to children.

In 2016, the Diocese of Phoenix issued a statement confirming that allegations that Fr. Pecore engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor while he was at St. Mark in 1982-83 were credible.  

Reveal and discuss that Fr. Henn is an infamous Salvatorian and Diocese of Phoenix predator and fugitive from justice. Fr. Henn abused the plaintiff when the plaintiff was under the age of 15 and Fr. Henn was working at St. Mark, where he was assigned from approximately 1978-82. In 2003, Fr. Henn was indicted in Maricopa County on 13 counts for sexually abusing three boys from 1979-81. Fr. Henn fled Arizona and escaped to Rome where the Salvatorians gave him refuge at their residence. He was arrested in Rome in 2005, fought extradition, left the Salvatorians’ headquarters in Rome where he was on house arrest, and disappeared before he could be extradited to stand trial in Arizona. In May 2019, Italian authorities arrested Fr. Henn. Fr. Henn was brought back to Arizona and jailed in the Maricopa County Jail.  After Fr. Henn returned to Arizona, another survivor of sexual abuse came forward to accuse him of child sexual abuse.  Fr. Henn was indicted again on 18 counts of child sexual abuse. Fr. Henn remains in custody in the Maricopa County jail awaiting trial on the charges.
Reveal and discuss that Fr. Verhagen and Fr. Bretl sexually abused the plaintiff as a minor when she was under the age of 15 and while Fr. Verhagen and Fr. Bretl were at St. Mark. Fr. Verhagen was assigned to St. Mark from approximately 1976 to 1985. He died in 2001. Fr. Bretl was assigned to St. Mark from approximately 1976 to 1981. He died in 2010.

Reveal and discuss that the Salvatorians, the Diocese of Phoenix and St. Mark engaged in a pattern and practice of allowing multiple Salvatorian pedophile priests to work at St. Mark, and of transferring pedophile priests throughout the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, and the United States. Salvatorian priests were assigned to St. Mark for decades. In addition to Fr. Henn and Fr. Pecore, at least one other Salvatorian priest who worked at St. Mark has been charged or convicted for sexually abusing a minor - Fr. Robert Marsicek, S.D.S., who was convicted in 2017.

Discuss the Diocese of Phoenix’s history of concealing clergy abuse, protecting predator priests and allowing them to have access to children while knowing they were a danger.

    Discuss Arizona’s historic victim’s rights law, HB2466, which went into effect in May 2019. The new law extends the age limit – to 30 - for sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions that protected them, and provides a temporary window - open until December 31, 2020 - for sexual abuse survivors older than 30 to bring lawsuits in cases that were previously barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred.

Encourage sexual abuse survivors to come forward confidentially under HB2466.
Demand full disclosure by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, and the Salvatorians, of the identities, histories, and current whereabouts of all clergy accused of child sexual abuse who worked in the Diocese of Phoenix and for the Salvatorians.

WHEN: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM MT

WHERE:  Hilton Garden Inn – Phoenix Downtown – Washington Room
                  15 E. Monroe St.
                  Phoenix, AZ 85004

A Spanish speaker will be present and available at the press conference                 

NOTE: The press conference will be live-streamed via YouTube and Facebook at

NOTE: On June 26, 2019, Jeff Anderson & Associates released The Anderson Report: Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix, which contained the names, photographs and assignment histories of 109 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse.

Contact:   Jeff Anderson: Office: (651) 227-9990; Cell: (612) 817-8665
                 Robert Pastor: Office: (602) 279-8969; Cell: (602) 690-6036