Authorities: Former Priest Sought Hit on Abuse Accuser

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 23, 2010

A former priest who has been accused of sexual abuse by a male teen has been placed under arrest for allegedly seeking to arrange the boy's murder.

John Fiala reportedly offered an informant $5,000 to kill the teen, who filed a suit against the 52-year-old former priest last spring, alleging that Fiala had sexually abused him in 2007 and 2008. The boy was 16 at the time of the alleged assaults, according to a Nov. 22 article at the San Antonio Express-News. The alleged incidents involved incidents of sexual abuse during religious instruction and rape in a motel room at gunpoint, according to the Express-News account. Fiala had been arrested earlier in connection with the alleged abuse, which reportedly took place in a rural Texas community near San Antonio. Fiala had also been arrested in Kansas last September, after which he was returned to Texas.

Fiala now lives in Garland, a town near Dallas. Fiala reportedly offered to pay a neighbor for the teen's death. The neighbor went to the police, who sent an undercover officer to meet with Fiala at his home, the AP reported. When Fiala sought to contract for the teen's murder, he was arrested, according to the article. Fiala is currently in jail facing a charge of murder solicitation and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. His bail has been set at $700,000.

"Fiala had threatened him with physical violence and threatened to kill him before, and he was very afraid of that," the victim's attorney, Tom Rhodes, told the media. "My client wasn't happy that Fiala was trying to recruit someone to kill him, but he's happy Fiala is in jail now."

As reported in an earlier EDGE article, Fiala was a parish priest in Rocksprings, a community in the San Antonio area, when he allegedly subjected a teenager in his parish to repeated episodes of sexual abuse, according to the teen's lawsuit.

Initially, the police only heard an "interference with child custody" complaint against Fiala, the San Antonio Express-News reported last April 9. But the suit alleges that Fiala abused the boy over the course of eight months in 2008, and says that in some instances Fiala bribed the boy, now 18, with gifts--including a car--while in other cases he assaulted the youth at gunpoint. The abuse allegedly took place frequently, up to twice per month. The suit also alleges that Fiala made threats against the youth and his family in an attempt to keep him quiet.

According to the article, the young man's mother had grown suspicious and reported to the Archdiocese on numerous occasions that she thought Fiala was abusing her son. She was allegedly told to go to the police. Then-Archbishop of San Antonio José Gomez--now serving at Archbishop of Los Angeles--removed Fiala from his duties in October of 2008, according to a statement made by Gomez at the time. Gomez also said that he alerted the parishes at which Fiala had previously been posted. But the archdiocese did not act on any reported sexual misconduct; rather, it was the complaint of "interference with child custody" that triggered the archdiocese's actions, the article said. The teen's suit also names the archdiocese of San Antonio, among other religious organizations, claiming that they were complicit in covering up Fiala's misdeeds.

Head administrator for the archdiocese Fr. Martin Leopold cited policies that have been put into place since the start of the global pedophile priest scandal, saying, "In the last five years, we're blessed to not have had any allegations of new abuse."

"Bishops are so quick to say that they have made changes," the president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy, said. "And the ones to pay the price are the young victims." Clohessy said that the case mirrored other cases in which bishops allegedly knew of perpetrator priests, but covered up their activities.

During his career, Fiala had been posted to parishes in several states, noted the article. Attorney Rhodes said that was "a pretty good red flag" that church officials may have known of instances of abuse perpetrated by Fiala and worked to cover them up by shuffling him from assignment to assignment.

"One of the issues in this case is he had numerous transfers and periods of no assignments at all," said Rhodes.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.