TEXAS: Priest-chaplain found to have molested students faces loss of orders

February 11, 2008

Episcopal Diocese of Texas Bishop Don Wimberly said February 8 that the diocese's ecclesiastical court will convene in a month to consider the priestly orders of a retired priest who was found to have molested students in the 1960s.

"We are committed to protecting all of God's children, and I am grateful to both the Standing Committee and to the Ecclesiastical Court for their time and thoughtful deliberation. I am especially grateful to the victims who traveled here today to give their testimony," Wimberly said in a news release. "While the statute of limitations has passed for the victims to press formal criminal charges, the Ecclesiastical Court provides a measure of accountability."

The court February 7 returned a summary judgment against the Rev. James L. Tucker, finding him guilty of immoral behavior and conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy after hearing testimony from three men who said that Tucker had repeatedly molested them in the 1960s while they were students at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in West Austin. Tucker was a chaplain at the school Austin from 1960-1968.

While some of the victims had reportedly alerted school officials to the abuse after they had left the school, Wimberly did not learn about the accusations until some time in 2006. He then commissioned an investigation. He later received an independent report that resulted from interviews with alleged victims, and Wimberly found the charges to have substance. He placed the matter before the Standing Committee and reported the incidents to the Travis County District Attorney.

At the time Wimberly said, "We have policies in place today that we did not have in 1968 and I believe it is our obligation to shine a light onto a situation that has been utterly buried for years. It is extremely important that the victims be heard and that they receive our apology."

Tucker, who retired from active ministry in 1992, sought to renounce his orders in a letter to Wimberly in the fall of 2007, according to the diocese's news release. The bishop did not accept the request because Tucker would not admit his guilt, the release said.

Tucker left St. Stephen's in 1968 following a complaint lodged by one of the victims to then-Head of School Allen Becker. Tucker served at St. James Episcopal Church, Houston, from 1970 until his retirement in 1992. The diocese notified church leaders and members of the congregation of St. James about the allegations as well.

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