Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catholic archdiocese settles two sexual-abuse lawsuits

Catholic archdiocese settles two sexual-abuse lawsuits
By Janet I. Tu

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese recently settled two lawsuits in which plaintiffs said that, as adults, they were the subjects of sexual abuse or inappropriate conduct by priests.

In the first case, a Pierce County woman, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, said she was abused by Monsignor John Doogan in the mid-1970s when Doogan served as chancellor for the Seattle Archdiocese.

Doogan, who helped found and then served as the first principal of Bishop Blanchet and John F. Kennedy Memorial high schools, died in 2003.

In the lawsuit, Doe says she was abused by Doogan when she went to him for spiritual direction and counseling. At the time, she was a nun employed as an educator in the Seattle Archdiocese.

The lawsuit says the archdiocese produced letters that show Doogan had a sexual relationship with at least one other woman he had counseled.

In the second case, a King County man identified in the lawsuit as David Johns said the Rev. Jeffrey Sarkies engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with him under the guise of providing therapy and guidance. Johns, who was 24 at the time, had sought spiritual direction from Sarkies starting in 2004.

Sarkies abruptly resigned as pastor of West Seattle's Holy Rosary Church in 2006. The archdiocese said at the time that Sarkies had violated professional ethics policy in the area of sexual misconduct and harassment. It also restricted Sarkies from functioning as a priest in the archdiocese.

Sarkies, who is now living in Arizona, denies Johns' allegation, according to Sarkies' attorney.

In both lawsuits, the Seattle Archdiocese had contended that it should not be held liable because the relationships were between consenting adults.

The plaintiffs had argued that because Doogan and Sarkies were providing spiritual direction or counseling, they were acting in positions of trust and power and that therefore the relationships were not consensual.

The settlements were reached last month before a King County Superior Court judge could rule on that issue.

Neither the Seattle Archdiocese nor plaintiffs' attorneys would reveal the amounts of the settlements.

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