Life Teen founder arrested in Phoenix

Life Teen founder arrested in Phoenix

The famed founder of Life Teen, Msgr. Dale Fushek, was arrested in Phoenix today. He was charged with sexual misconduct with young men, including incidents in which he would have misued the confessional for that purpose, which is a very serious crime in the Church too.

Fushek was charged with three counts of assault, five of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two of indecent exposure.

Fushek “used a relationship of trust to perform criminal acts, including but not limited to sexual activities, improper sexual discussions and physical contact, upon vulnerable minor and adult victims,” prosecutors said in court papers.

Prosecutors said Fushek committed the acts between 1984 and 1994 at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Mesa or on property belonging to the church. The alleged victims were seven young men and boys.

While the allegations against Fushek aren’t new—there have been accusations going back several years—and Fushek hasn’t been involved in Life Teen for a few years, this still has to be a blow to the program. I know a lot of people involved in Life Teen and a few who knew Fushek personally.

An arrest is not a conviction, but an indictment means that the prosecutor thinks he can make the case. It’s not good for Fushek. My primary sympathy and prayer is for all those whose Catholic faith came about because of Fushek’s ministry and who may suffer a crisis of faith because of this. Ugh.

More details are available in the Arizona Republic.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • I heartily agree in joining in prayer for all those who may face doubt in light of this arrest.  Thanks for posting the article.

    On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice that you are referring to him as “Fushek” rather than “Fr. Fushek” or “Msgr. Fushek.”  It just seemed a bit odd. 

  • Founder of Life Teen? How depressing. At my parish, it’s such a vibrant group. I really hope this doesn’t effect them.

  • On a side note, I couldned doesn’t make it true.  I have direct knowledge of at least three (local) cases where allegations were made and later proven to be untrue (as opposed to simply not proven to be true—and there is definitely a distinction).  Some of these allegations were made loudly and severally; at least one of them was trumpeted by a lawyer as a slam-dunk example of priestly predation.  Yet they were proven to be untrue; the people making the allegations were proven to be liars.  I have no way of knowing whether this is the case with Msgr. Fushek, but it is certainly possible.

    Second, I don’t have the details on the “confession” charge, but please note two things:  (a) regarding anything which transpired within the Sacrament—even if it were exculpatory—Msgr. Fushek is bound not to comment; and (b) the vagueness (so far) of the charge leads me to believe that what sounds heinous could, in fact, be merely the case of a priest determining the extent of a penitent’s culpability regarding violations of the Sixth or Ninth Commandment. 

    Remember this, also:  people can dislike intensely the experience of going to confession, especially within the context of a culture that says, “Nobody can tell me what I can or cannot do!”  I’ve had dozens of people tell me about how mean this or that priest was in confession, or how they were yelled at in confession—and upon further probing, it turns out that the “mean” priest merely asked them to be more specific, or told them that what they had supposed to be unimportant was, in fact, very important and dangerous to their eternal salvation.  I’ve learned to take people’s war stories about confession experiences with a grain of salt, particularly if I think I know the priest in question.

    Now, that said, I don’t KNOW Msgr. Fushek.  I’ve met him a couple of times, and I have to admit that I thought he was a bit of an “odd duck.”  However, I have no doubt that many people see me as an “odd duck” too, and other priests as well.  I think the term “sui generis” was composed to refer to priests; we are all “odd ducks” in the eyes of this world.

    I only want to offer a word of caution on all of this.  There are two sides to every story, and until this is all proven in a court of law, it is ungenerous of us to presume the worst.

    At the very least, let us all pray for him, for the Diocese of Phoenix (which, you are correct, is rooting out a lot of former errors), and certainly for any of those who have had their innocence stolen from them.

  • First, let’s hope that the allegations are proved false.

    Next, let’s pray for the Mgr., and all who are disturbed by this.

    Finally, and on a darker note, this is another example of the connection between those who “tweak” the Roman Liturgy and who are also homosexual (if the allegation is true.)

  • Hello Fr. Clark:

    I should have expected a prompt reply from you since our last exchange concerned the notorious Lifeteen ministry.

    In response to your criticisms of my post, I will amend my previous posting by saying I have no “reasonable” doubt that the allegations are true.  Look at the objective facts.  The same man who is accused had the diocese pay $45,000 to a man he sexually harassed in 1995. Instead of being removed from ministry, he was protected by his boss (a convicted felon) who himself cut a deal to avoid indictment by admitting he allowed untold numbers of children to be molested by homosexual predators.  We have seen this across the country over and over like a nightmare that doesn’t end. Isn’t it reasonable to assume Fushek would act out again when he learned the diocese would pay off his victims.  I’m all for being positive, but this guy has a record of sexual deviance in a diocese where three priests jumped bail and fled the country rather than answer for their crimes. He should not be anywhere near ordained ministry.  I’ll sleep better once he is under lock and key and laicized.

    Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong and this is all just a conspiracy by anti-Lifeteen conservatives to “get” Fushek, but based on the record to date, that seems unreasonable.

    Although I cannot suspend my reason, I will answer your call to join in prayer for the accused and the Diocese of Phoenix which has suffered greatly.

  • I don’t have any reason to believe that this is sponsored by a cabal out to get LifeTeen.

    I do, however, know of several cases here in the Boston Archdiocese, where years ago the diocesan machinery insisted on payment to accusers even when the priest insisted on his innocence.  I even know of one case in which a priest received a letter of exoneration from the bishop after such a payment.  The letter detailed the priest’s innocence and said the payment was merely to make the issue “go away quietly.”  Much later on, this incident was revived as part of the recent scandal, and the priest WHO HAD BEEN ADJUDGED INNOCENT OF THE CHARGES was then suspended from ministry some twenty years after the fact.

    Please be honest.  I have not defended Msgr. Fushek, I have merely pointed out that we priests have not been stripped of our citizenship.  We are all, in this country, presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Nothing like that has been done in this case to date, and all I asked was for you (and others) to treat him as you would any American citizen.

    Is that really too much to ask?  Or, alternatively, am I accusing you of being an “anti-Lifeteen conservative” because I remind you of your obligation to charity and of your duty as an American?  Please…

  • A commentor over at Amy’s cited this article:

    If this history of the man is true, it is very devastating.  I can remember seeing Fr. Fushek along with Fr. Jack Spaulding on Mother Angelica’s years ago.  I thought that Fr. Spaulding was the founder or leader because he appeared to be more in charge, more mature, level headed and truly concerned for the faith of teens.  Fr. Fushek appeared more reticent as I remember.  I think, though, that he (Fr. Spaulding) joined Life Teen a couple of years after its founding.  I think he’s moved on and is elsewhere now.

  • . . . and, by the way, I believe that I still hold a valid (and charter) membership in “Who’s Who in Conservative Ecclesiology.”

    Would you like to see my membership card?

  • Always a thoughtful response, Fr. Clark.  You challenge me in all the right ways.  Thanks for being a good sport in our discussion.  I will reflect on your comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Oh, well, I guess Fr. Spaulding is now the current pastor at St. Tim’s.  Correct?  From what I know of him, he’s a good and holy priest.

  • Fr. Jack Spaulding was named pastor of St. Timothy’s upon the resignation of Fr. Dale on June 30, 2005.

  • Thank you Fr. Jim for your wisdom in that we ALL have the right to be st?) sound like an indulgence that was intended to facilitate further indulgences.

    The presumption of innocence applies only to our legal system. If a parent or a bishop thinks a priest is guilty of abuse, he does not have to wait for conviction by a jury to act.

  • A priest friend of mine stated unequivocally that after knowing him in seminary for a short time, it doesn’t surprise him at all.

    He said those who abuse of the liturgy of course are very likely to abuse others.

  • Bingo.  There’s always dirt behind:
    1) liturgical abuses of the frequent & bizarre variety.
    2) middle aged men who prefer the company of children.  After all, what do they have to talk about???

  • We are all gamblers of sorts. We bet our lives on God’s goodness, his love for us. Even if we don’t have the capacity to accept his love, we probably have an opinion about it. I think it’s important to have risky opinions. I think it’s important to gamble like a man. I’m going to make the risky opinon that Fushek is innocent. Not in the Virgin Mary, Immaculate Conception kind of innocent, just your run-of-the-mill variety.  I’m not picking up the stone and I’m not holding the coat.