Saturday, May 16, 2009

Molesting priests dealt with in 'secrecy'

Seattle Post
Molesting priests dealt with in 'secrecy,' local church leader says
But former chancellor says he didn't know priest was a perpetrator
Thursday, May 14, 2009Last updated May 15, 2009 3:20 p.m. PT
The Rev. Michael G. Ryan, the longtime pastor at St. James Cathedral and former top aide in the Seattle Archdiocese, took the witness stand Thursday, where he described how the local Catholic church once dealt with child-molesting priests: In a "cloak of secrecy" and with the belief that sexual abusers were treatable.
"With the hindsight we have now, we would never have done the things we did," Ryan told jurors. "We made mistakes, for which we are sorry."
But he denied any legal responsibility in the case now pending against the Archdiocese, in which two men abused by their priest allege that the church knew -- or should have known -- that the priest was a predator. Filed in King County Superior Court, the case is the first sex-abuse claim against the Archdiocese to go to trial.
Attorneys for the men have suggested that Ryan's old boss, Raymond Hunthausen - the former legendary archbishop in Seattle from 1975 to 1991 -- knew of the priest's past when he allowed him to minister in Seattle.
Hunthausen was supposed to testify Thursday, but the proceedings delayed his appearance until the afternoon, when the 87-year-old cleric was taking a nap. A flurry of phone calls summoned him, and he limped into court and then left. He is now expected to testify next Monday.
The priest in question, Patrick O'Donnell, has admitted that he molested at least 30 boys, including the plaintiffs, during his 15-year priesthood, which took place mostly in Spokane. Church leaders there knew he was a sexual predator, as they bounced him among parishes and repeatedly sent him into treatment.
In 1976, the Spokane bishop learned that O'Donnell was molesting a 14-year-old boy and quickly sent him to Seattle for sexual-deviancy treatment. The bishop arranged for O'Donnell to live at St. Paul's parish in Rainier Beach for two years, where the priest continued to assault boys, including the plaintiffs.
During Hunthausen's time, Ryan was part of his inner circle, serving as his chancellor -- or right-hand man -- and as a member of a priest personnel board. Although it was customary for the bishop and chancellor to deal privately with child-molesting priests, Ryan testified Thursday that he did not know that O'Donnell was a molester. He also said he knew of no complaints against O'Donnell that emerged during his time in Seattle.
"Were there mistakes made with regard to Father O'Donnell?" archdiocesan lawyer Michael Patterson asked him on the stand.
"Not on our part," Ryan replied.
In his occasionally memory-challenged testimony, Ryan shed light on the church's thinking 30 years ago on child sexual abuse.
"Don't you think it would have been reasonable to let people in the parish know that a priest, in some instances, was a child molester?" asked plaintiff's attorney Michael Pfau.
"(The secrecy) was to see that the church was well served," Ryan replied, saying it was not for "sinister reasons." Earlier in his testimony, he said the "cloak of secrecy" was an "unfortunate phrase" he used in a deposition meant to describe the Archdiocese's discretion in such matters.
Pfau continued: "In 1976, you knew it was a crime to molest a child?"
"I knew it was a grave moral offense," Ryan answered. "I'm not sure 'crime' was the first thing that came to my mind."
Much was made of the minutes of a Sept. 27, 1976, meeting of the priest personnel board, in which members voted on various assignments of priests. The board dealt with every priest on its list that day, except one: O'Donnell. A decision on his residence in Seattle was deferred to Hunthausen and the Bishop of Spokane.
Plaintiffs attorneys have said that was a red flag; Ryan offered little explanation.
The heart of the case is whether the Spokane bishop, Bernard Topel, told Hunthausen that the priest was a molester. The men had been close, lifelong friends who attended the same college, vacationed together and called each other by their nicknames.
Topel died in the 1990s. Hunthausen has denied that his friend and fellow bishop ever told him about child-molesting priest.
Vanessa Ho can be reached at 206-448-8003 or
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1 comment:

Alex Meyer said...

What a stupid cunt. He didn't know it was a crime to molest children? Someone remove him from the gene pool, please.