Life Teen Catholic Youth Ministry?
Richard Salbato 11-26-2007
Two years ago I returned from Fatima and
Panama to be close to my children and grandchildren. My daughter was teaching
Bible Study and Confirmation Classes at Lake Arrowhead Catholic Church and two
of my grandchildren were attending the Confirmation Classes. As part of the
Confirmation Classes the students were required to attend the Sunday 6:30 PM
Sunday Life Teen Youth Mass and from there to the Confirmation Class. I
attended this Youth Mass one time and found it very disturbing to say the least,
because of the music and the socialization during the Mass. It seemed very
charismatic to me, so I asked my daughter about it. She said that this was part
of an international group called, Life Teen, and that the Confirmation students
were required to belong to Life Teen in order to be confirmed.
Not long after that two of my grandchildren went on a voluntary Life Teen two day retreat about 100 miles away. My granddaughter came back very upset about what she experienced at the retreat. They attended a Mass where she and her brother both had a very difficult time praying due to the music during mass. The worst part was Eucharistic Adoration, where they were unable to concentrate on prayer. The kids were encouraged to speak in tongues if they felt like it. My granddaughter was upset because during adoration several students began weeping and wailing and were taken out of the room. Prayer was impossible and the whole thing was uncomfortable. She brought it up to the Life Teen leader who had brought them and was told that she needed to be more open minded. My daughter resigned from being a group leader in Life Teen.
My daughter, who also taught Confirmation classes spoke to the leader about the event. She informed her that her daughter refused to attend Life Teen anymore because she felt it was interfering with her praying and concentration during mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She was told that her daughter could not be confirmed if she did not attend Life Teen mass and the Life Teen group. My daughter spoke to friends that were still home-schooling their kids and found a place that she could get them confirmed. We took all three of her kids at home to get confirmed by a wonderful archbishop. When the pastor found out that we confirmed them outside of his parish, he fired my daughter as teacher of the Confirmation Class.
I have wondered about Life Teen ever since, because I know it to be part of the Charismatic Movement within the Catholic Church and I am very much against this movement. I was in it at one time.
What is Life Teen?
Life Teen is a
Catholic Youth Ministry organization and movement originating in the
Father Fushek had
led St. Timothy’s to grow to 6,000 registered families with 8,000 attending
weekend Masses. Bishop Thomas O’Brien, then head of the
He coordinated the Valley visit of Mother Teresa in 1989 and was vicar of worship for the Mass at Sun Devil Stadium in
The fruits of Father Fushek seem wonderful would you not agree. But this is just another example of why people need to be more careful about their spiritual life and their trust in others. Fruits can be good or bad even when they appear good.
To understand Life Teen Masses, Life Teen Adoration and Life Teen retreats check out their propaganda video at:
http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=zy9tE1Kj8zM or their web site at http://www.lifeteen.com/ It is easy to see why teens love this social movement but what are the risks to their souls? You will see below the real reason for the founders of Life Teen’s interest in your children.
Co-founders of Life Teen arrested for pedophilia
Monsignor Dale Fushek, Phil Baniewicz, former priest Mark Lehman, Bishop O’Brien, and Life Teen Inc. have been arrested, and/or sued on criminal and civil charges of pedophilia. The new bishop, Olmsted, has worked hard to clean up this mess and help the victims of the abuse.
Monsignor Dale Fushek, once second-in-command of the Phoenix Diocese and founder of the nation's top church-based program for Catholic teenagers, has been arrested on 10 misdemeanor counts involving sexual misconduct with teenage boys and young men.
Two co-founders of Life Teen, the nation's largest
Catholic youth ministry based in the Valley, were accused in a lawsuit of
covering up and helping carry out sexual attacks on a 14-year-old boy two
The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, also claimed that the Life Teen program at St. Timothy's parish in
Named as defendants in the suit were Life Teen co-founders, Monsignor Dale J. Fushek and Phil Baniewicz, along with former priest Mark Lehman, resigned Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the Diocese of Phoenix, St. Timothy's Parish and Life Teen Inc., the program founded at St. Timothy's parish in 1985.
is not the full story. There appears to be more: The lawsuit repeated and
expanded allegations brought to the diocese by William J. Cesolini,
who said he was sodomized at St. Tim's parish in 1985 by Lehman while Fushek
watched and performed sexual acts on himself without stopping to help or report
the attack to authorities.
Cesolini, a one-time seminarian, said he regained his memory of the decades-old molestations in February 2003 after another priest made an unwanted sexual advance on him. He went to a church-paid counselor, who helped him gradually recover the details of the trauma. (Emphasis mine)
Monsignor Dale Fushek was arrested in 2005 for sexual misconduct with minors and accused of using Life Teen as a grooming ground for victims.
The charges stem from the accounts of six
men who all say they were drawn into unwanted sexual situations by Fushek when
they were involved with Fushek's Life Teen program at
St. Timothy's Catholic Church in
The Maricopa County Attorney's five-page criminal complaint against Fushek reads like a Reader's Digest condensation of New Times' investigative piece "Cross to Bare," published last February. The cover story detailed the sometimes lurid life in the inner sanctum of the Life Teen program Fushek created at St. Tim's in the mid-1980s.
Four of the six men cited in the criminal complaint first spoke publicly for that story, which outlined what one victim called "Dale's tried-and-true method for getting teenage boys in bed with him."
The charges include five counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors, three counts of misdemeanor assault and two counts of indecent exposure.
"Acting in his capacity as a Catholic priest," the complaint reads, "Dale Joseph 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."
The complaint states that in the mid-1980s, Fushek contributed to the delinquency of a minor, Marc Tropio, by engaging in discussions including "questions by defendant about Marc Tropio's masturbatory conduct and/or other sexual activities. At the time, Dale Joseph Fushek misrepresented them as part of the Catholic sacrament of confession. The physical contacts included defendant inviting Marc Tropio into his bed then engaging in kissing and snuggling. Said contact was unwelcome by Marc Tropio."
The five other victims describe a similar pattern of conduct, one that began with Fushek engaging certain teenage boys in his parish in explicit sexual discussions that eventually led to what victims perceived as unwanted sexual advances by the priest.
In a January discussion with New Times,
Paul Pfaffenberger, leader of the
"We're beginning to hear this same story again and again," Pfaffenberger said. "That there was unwanted sexual contact by Dale Fushek, and that it came about through this very manipulative grooming process associated with Life Teen. There is definitely a pattern of behavior beginning to form."
Prosecutors have not finished their investigation of Fushek, says Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney. The misdemeanor charges needed to be filed now, he said, to avoid problems with the one-year statute of limitations on the misdemeanors.
"There may be more charges in the future," he said.
There are essentially two tiers of allegations against Fushek -- soft-core and hard-core.
At the time of the New Times story, the amount of evidence supporting the misdemeanor charges was much greater than evidence supporting felony charges.
The six men accusing Fushek in the misdemeanor complaints are all credible witnesses, mostly men in their 30s with families and professional careers and little to gain except embarrassment from coming forward with their stories.
Most didn't know each other before this year, and all tell chillingly similar stories. Most have friends or family members who can substantiate their versions of events.
At the same time, however, none claims that Fushek ever forced the physical relationship beyond inappropriate discussions, creepy canoodling and his own nudity.
The county attorney investigation began, however, because of much more serious charges in a lawsuit filed in January by a former Life Teen member named Billy Cesolini.
Cesolini claims to have recovered memories of convicted pedophile Mark Lehman performing oral sex on him in 1985 at the rectory at St. Tim's while a fellow priest, Fushek, watched and masturbated. Cesolini was 14 at the time.
Manning, Fushek's attorney, called Cesolini "delusional" and his claims "laughable."
Prosecutors have been tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation of those considerably more serious charges.
The strength of felony criminal charges likely would hinge on testimony from Mark Lehman.
Lehman spent 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting several children in the late 1980s. He might have served more time if not for a letter to the judge by Dale Fushek asking for leniency.
Lehman could not be reached for comment for
this story. In February, however, when reached at his central
"I would very much like to tell the whole story to you," he said then. "But the way the world is, I've been told I can't."
At the time, New Times learned of two other former priests who had claimed to have witnessed alleged assaults by Fushek. New Times failed to locate those two priests. It is unknown if county prosecutors have interviewed these men in relation to more serious charges.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted suspended Fushek from public duties last December, when Cesolini and his attorney first approached the diocese. Six months later, Fushek resigned under pressure as pastor at St. Tim's.
Fushek's star first began to fade with the fall of his mentor, former bishop Thomas O'Brien, who, after a series of New Times stories and another investigation by then-County Attorney Rick Romley, signed an agreement granting him immunity from criminal charges if he would take a reduced role in the church and admit that he allowed priests accused of sexual misconduct to continue working with minors. He also admitted to transferring problem priests to new parishes without alerting parishioners about the priests' past. In several cases, priests accused of sexual contact with a minor at one parish allegedly continued abusing children at successive parishes.
After signing the agreement, O'Brien then began stating that he had not actually agreed to the seemingly apparent terms of the agreement. That debate was quickly silenced when O'Brien was arrested in a hit-and-run incident that left a man dead. O'Brien resigned as bishop and was later convicted of the crime.
Deputy county attorney Barbara Marshall asked that Fushek be held on $50,000 bond because, she said, "based on past experience with similar defendants, we feel that flight is a serious risk."
Indeed. Besides O'Brien's run from the scene of a fatal accident, three Valley priests -- Patrick Colleary, Joseph Henn and Joseph Briceno -- have left the country and refused to return to face charges.
Instead of bond, however, Maricopa County Commissioner Barbara Hamner had Fushek placed under house arrest at his home where he will wear a bracelet monitoring his whereabouts. He was also ordered to surrender his passport.
Father Dale Fushek leaves the Church
Was Father Dale
Fushek ever really a Catholic, or was he more interested in the Charismatic
movement and sex in the name of God?
That is easy to answer because he has now opened up a non-catholic Praise
The magnetism and
the following that Catholic priest Dale Fushek developed during 20 years as
pastor of St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in
Fushek is on administrative leave from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and cannot represent himself as a priest, pending the resolution of his case. Though he waits for the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on whether he should be allowed to have a jury trial, Fushek is applying his personal style of spirituality to the Praise and
The ministry is billed as nondenominational and intended to complement — not take the place of — people’s primary worship elsewhere. The next service is expected to be Dec. 23.
Thursday’s services featured prayer, music, praise and a message. But it was not a Mass, nor was the Holy Eucharist served — steps that would have violated Catholic canons.
“When he was put on administrative leave, he was told not to administer the sacraments and to not present himself as a priest,” Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, said Friday. “If he is not violating that, we wouldn’t have to know specifically what he is doing.”
The Praise and
“We heard about some of the promotional materials that were done, but we didn’t know if it was ever going to take place,” Dwyer said. “We made it clear to the Catholics at St. Timothy’s that it wouldn’t be (regarded as) an official Catholic service. But other than that, we have no control on what he does as a Catholic citizen.”
Mark Dipree, a former priest, is working with Fushek in the ministry. The Web site listed
If Fushek is convicted, he likely would have to register as a sex offender, which would restrict him from being around youth. A Web site called www.helpmonsignordale.com continues to solicit funds for Fushek’s legal defense, and it uses the same address as the Praise and
“He misses the community that was removed from his life. ... He misses working with the youth,” that site notes.