Most Predator Priests Not Convicted

News: Crisis in the Church
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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  January 25, 2016   

Most priest sex abusers in Seattle archdiocese never convicted, says analyst

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SEATTLE ( - According to a Seattle Times analyst, most of the 77 priests listed by the Seattle archdiocese as sexual predators were never convicted.

The list of the accused was published on the archdiocese's website January 15, and include clergy and religious who either "served or resided" in the archdiocese from 1923 to 2008. Names were made public for those "whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined credible."

The Seattle Times reported Sunday that after analyzing this list, it could only substantiate sex abuse convictions for five of the priests.

Those accused of sex abuse included 30 archdiocesan priests, 16 priests from religious orders, 14 brothers from religious communities, two deacons and 14 priests from other dioceses.

Archdiocesan spokesman Greg Magnoni related that it took two years to put the list together. "In early 2014 we brought in a private consultant, a former FBI agent who does this kind of work; she came in with an associate and was given full access to our files. It took about 1,000 staff hours to put it together."

Magnoni elaborated that after Seattle's archbishop J. Peter Sartain was installed in December 2010, he began regular meetings with the Archdiocesan Review Board, "a confidential consultative body that advises the Archbishop regarding his responsibilities related to clergy sexual abuse of minors and assisting him in assessing allegations and fitness for ministry."

It was from these meeting between 2011 and 2013 that the plan originated to disclose this list of names, Magnoni said.

But this publication was long overdue, according to Mike McKay, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, which encompasses the archdiocese.

McKay said he and other members of the Archdiocese Case Review Board made the recommendation to publish such a list back in 2004 to the former archbishop of Seattle, Alexander Brunett.

The day the archdiocese published the list, McKay commented, "This was one of our many recommendations. So, we're glad that the archbishop now is finally doing this, but there are a lot of things they need to be doing, too."

The priests fell into one of four categories: 40 deceased, 17 laicized or barred from public ministry, six assigned to a life of permanent prayer and penance, and the final 14 listed as unknown.

Those assigned to permanent prayer and penance couldn't exercise public ministry and were asked to do penance for their crimes and to pray for the healing of abused victims.

Archbishop Sartain, apologized for the abuse, saying, "I express my deepest apologies for the actions of those who were in positions of trust and who violated that sacred trust by abusing the vulnerable in their care."

Mary Dispenza, Northwest director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), believes the archdiocese's release of the names is a positive step. She remarked, "Any time a predator's name is publicized, kids are safer. So that's a positive. However, this is very late in coming."

Dispenza recalled that 30 other archdioceses had taken similar public action in posting such lists, but said it was usually owing to unseen legal wrangling or outside pressure. This not being the case in Seattle, Dispenza noted, "It's questionable even why Abp. Sartain has taken this action at this moment. It's difficult to know how genuine this step is."

The archdiocese explained that it published the list in accord with their policy of  "transparency and to encourage persons sexually abused by clergy or by anyone working on behalf of the Church to come forward."

Those close to the archdiocesan review board commented that one reason so few clergy were ever convicted of such crimes is that accusations were made many years after the alleged crime and only after the statute of limitations had run out.

Kathleen McChesney, the consultant hired by the archdiocese's law firm to compile the list, commented, "A lot of these were just not prosecuted. The allegations were either brought after the statute of limitations, or there might not have been the proper investigations done."

The Seattle archdiocese has publicized that from the late 1980s to date, it has paid out approximately $74 million in settlements covering 392 claims of sexual abuse of minors. It also has paid about $580,000 in counseling fees for victims and family members over the last 10 years.

To learn more about priest sex abuse watch, "Mic'd Up—Alleged Cover-Up in NYC."


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