Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Still in ministry

Priest who fathered a child still in ministry

Sex abuse victims urge three bishops to act

Group wants Yakima prelate to suspend him & meet with parishioners

SNAP: 2 other bishops should “reach out” to others who may have been hurt

“Deal with clergy sexual exploitation seriously and openly,” self help group says

A group that represents clergy sex abuse victims is urging three Catholic officials to take action about a priest who fathered a child with a young parishioner years ago but is still in parish ministry.

The organization wants Yakima’s bishop to suspend the cleric and prelates in Spokane and Baker Oregon, where he also worked, to reach out to anyone who may have “seen, suspected or suffered” any crimes or misdeeds by him.

The priest is Fr. William J. Vogel, who is the associate pastor at Resurrection church in Zillah WA (509-829-5433, 704 Schooley Road , office@resurrectionparish.us) in the Yakima Diocese. In 1977 to 1981 and again from 1987 to 1990, Vogel also worked at St. Luke's Church in Woodburn Oregon, in the Baker Diocese.

That’s where, according to a 1992 civil lawsuit, Vogel impregnated a young parishioner in 1990 and fathered a child. Vogel met her when she was 13, “continuously exerted dominance and control” over her, and stopped communicating with her the same month the child was born, the complaint states. The suit also accuses the Portland Archdiocese of negligently supervising Vogel. The church hierarchy also allegedly failed to investigate complaints against Vogel and failed to remove him from his position, according to the suit.

Before coming to Washington in 1977, Vogel also worked in the Spokane Diocese.

A Chicago-based support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, recently learned of the suit and is writing three bishops about Vogel. SNAP wants Yakima officials to suspend him and Baker and Spokane church officials to use church bulletins and pulpit announcements to seek out others he may have hurt.

Vogel belongs to a large Catholic religious order called the Jesuits. In 2006, his Jesuit supervisor, Fr. John Whitney, wrote to Yakima Bishop Carlos Sevilla and acknowledged Vogel’s paternity.

“You know well that Fr. Vogel fathered a child 13 years ago,” wrote Whitney. “This matter was well aired in the public press in Western Oregon at the time. The mother was not a minor. Since that time, Fr. Vogel has received treatment for alcoholism.”

SNAP believes that Yakima’s bishop particularly owes his parishioners some explanations.

“Sevilla owes his flock answers to questions like ‘How could Vogel still be in ministry?’ and ‘Why weren't the people of Central Washington told about this?’” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “And Bishop (Robert) Vasa (of Baker) should explain why Oregon church staff quietly let a deceitful priest move to an unsuspecting parish elsewhere with no warning.”

Spokane and Baker church staff should “use their considerable resources – websites, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements – to urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered any misdeeds by Vogel to come forward,” she said.

“Church officials hold out Vogel as a celibate, trustworthy and compassionate man,” Dorris said. “But he obviously hasn’t been celibate and isn’t being trustworthy – keeping a secret like this from his flock – and isn’t exactly compassionate if he’s ignoring his child.”

“Regardless of the ages of the individuals, it’s always hurtful when a clergyman has sex with a congregant, particularly when he befriends her as a teen and pretends to be a celibate, holy person,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “Catholics are trained since birth to trust, revere and respect priests and consider them God’s representatives on earth. In virtually every state, it’s illegal for doctors and therapists to sexually exploit their patients, yet priests are held in higher esteem than these professions. So the power differential between cleric and congregant and the potential for harm are both enormous.”

SNAP admits that Vogel’s misconduct could have been limited to the one victim.

“But why take chances with the safety of vulnerable parishioners? And why increase the chances of further wrong-doing by keeping secrets?” Clohessy asked. “Remember, the lawsuit alleged that Vogel ‘continuously exerted dominance and control’ over her. It’s not described as a ‘one time fling.’”

Dorris also points out that there’s at least a ten year age gap, and likely more, between Vogel and the young woman.

SNAP also acknowledges that it’s unclear how the lawsuit was resolved.

“But what a court does and what a bishop should do are different,” Dorris maintains. “A bishop’s first job is to protect his flock, regardless of what happens in the justice system. If a jury finds an accused priest innocent of embezzlement charges, but a bishop knows he’s guilty, that bishop is irresponsible if he lets that priest oversee money again.”

Vogel was sent from Portland to Spokane and then to Yakima around 1977. In addition to his current Zillah parish assignment, Vogel also works as a chaplain at Toppenish Community Hospital (509 865 3105 ext. 300).

Vogel’s current pastor is Fr. Juan Flores (fatherflores@resurrectionparish.us)

Whitney can be reached at 206 965 1648 jwhitneysj@me.com, jwhitney@stjosephparish.org

The current head of the Jesuit’s northwest region, who directly supervises Vogel, is Fr. Patrick J. Lee (503 226 6977, provincial-ore@nwjesuits.org)

A copy of the 1992 newspaper article, is below, as is SNAP’s letter to each of the three bishops, sent today by fax and e mail.



A Marion County woman who alleges that a former Woodburn priest is the father of her baby has filed suit seeking $1 million in general damages plus child-support payments.

The suit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges that the Rev. William Vogel, a Jesuit priest, carried on a relationship with the woman that led to her pregnancy in 1990 and to the birth of a son in May 1991.

The woman first met Vogel in 1977 at St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Woodburn when she was 13 years old, according to the complaint. Vogel was a priest at that church from 1977 to 1981 and returned as pastor from 1987 to 1990. The complaint alleges that Vogel ``continuously exerted dominance and control'' over the young woman until the fall of 1990. Vogel stopped communicating with her the same month the child was born, the complaint states. Besides Vogel, the suit accuses the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon and the Society of Jesus of negligently supervising Vogel. Those entities allegedly failed to investigate complaints against Vogel and failed to remove him from his position, according to the complaint. A spokesman for the archdiocese said the church could not comment on the case since a lawsuit had been filed. However, the archdiocese issued a statement that said Vogel, 46, resigned as pastor at St. Luke's after the paternity allegation arose. ``The archdiocese is concerned for the welfare of both the child and his mother,'' the statement added. Vogel could not be located to comment on the suit. The archdiocese said Vogel had been a member of the Society of Jesus since 1963 and was ordained as a priest in 1975. At St. Luke's, Vogel's responsibilities included pastoral and administrative work. ``He worked closely with the Hispanic community in the area,'' the archdiocese statement said. As a result of her involvement with Vogel, the woman claims to suffer from anger, depression and a loss of ability to trust others. The episode has also challenged her religious beliefs, the suit says. The lawsuit asks for $1 million for pain and suffering for the mother. It also seeks $400 per month in child support plus health insurance and life insurance for the child's benefit.

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