||The 11 abuse cases
the P-I examined
By Michelle Nicolosi and Claudia Rowe
August 19, 2004
[See also the
main article in this series on accusations against "Fathers who acted
as fathers", maps and photos of the Washington
church properties where abuse is alleged with synopses of the charges
and in-depth reports on two priests: Rev.
Edward T. Olszewski and Rev.
A synopsis of 11 abuse cases examined by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
- The Rev. James Mitchell brought two teens to Washington
from Colombia and promised to adopt them, subjecting them to frequent
sexual abuse, according to a complaint filed by one of them in May.
A recent visit to his home in Pullman revealed that two young men are
living there today. One said their relationship with Mitchell is not
sexual. The other did not comment. Mitchell has been removed from active
- The Rev. Arthur C. Mertens of the Spokane Diocese
invited a Mexican-born boy to live with him in his Walla Walla rectory
as a way of escaping violence at home, then raped him for years, according
to a recently filed lawsuit. Mertens has been removed from active ministry.
- The Rev. G. Barry Ashwell was a state-licensed foster
father to at least five children on Whidbey Island -- including one
who settled a molestation claim with the Seattle Archdiocese in 1996.
Ashwell has vehemently denied the allegations. In 2002, he was removed
from active ministry after the Seattle Archdiocese found credible evidence
of sexual abuse in another case.
- A Seattle priest, the Rev. John Cornelius, took in
as many as 13 children. None of them has claimed abuse, but more than
20 other men have accused him of abusing them. Cornelius resigned in
2002, saying "To all those I have hurt, I express to you my sorrow,
and I ask for your forgiveness." Contacted recently, Cornelius
said he has no further comment.
- A Milwaukee jury found the Rev. Marvin Knighton not
guilty last year of charges that he sexually assaulted a teen in the
late '80s, but the Milwaukee Archdiocese reviewed claims against Knighton,
and in April found that there is a "preponderance of evidence"
that Knighton committed sexual abuse. According Knighton’s attorney,
Gerald P. Boyle, Knighton has three adopted sons.
- In Michigan, the Rev. Edward Olszewski was found
guilty in December 2002 of four counts of indecent liberties with Albert
Green, now a Lynnwood resident, who lived with him in the '70s when
he was a child.
Olszewski is now registered in Florida as a sexual offender. He has
said his trial was flawed, and he is not guilty of any sexual misconduct.
He said Green is "a pathological liar. ... This is all made up."
- According to a recently settled lawsuit, the Rev. Dozia Wilson
molested a youth who lived with him in his rectory in Massachusetts
for three years in the 1970s. According to the lawsuit, Wilson was the
boy's partial guardian -- he had legal authority to handle his financial,
school and medical affairs. A second man who has sued Wilson alleging
abuse -- Joe Woodward -- said he lived with Wilson for a brief period
in New York.
- Former Toledo, Ohio, Deacon Glen Shrimplin has recently
been sued by two men alleging abuse. One of those men, who filed as
John Doe, said Shrimplin was a foster father to a boy who was placed
in Shrimplin's home by the Catholic Charities arm of the Toledo Diocese
in the early '70s. He says he knew that child when they were kids and
were both being molested by Shrimplin. He said he has since spoken to
the man, who has decided not to go public with his allegations.
Claudia Vercellotti, co-coordinator of the Toledo chapter of SNAP
-- the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests -- said she also
spoke with the alleged victim. "He said emphatically that he
was placed in foster care as a child through Catholic Charities with
Glen Shrimplin," she said.
John Doe said he told a case manager and a priest at the diocese
last year that Shrimplin was a foster parent who had abused the foster
child who stayed with him.
But Sally Oberski, director of communications at the diocese, said
that "if it happened, we don't know about it." She said
none of the officials in the diocese recall ever being told there
was a foster child or any child living with Shrimplin.
"A lot of people take people in to help them out" without
going though formal channels, she said. "If that was the situation,
we might not have even known about it. It's kind of scary if that's
what he was doing," she said.
Shrimplin did not return calls placed to a number registered in his
name, but has said in the past that the abuse allegations are false.
- Rochester, N.Y., priest Robert O'Neill had a young
man living with him in his rectory for about a year in the 1980s. Mark
Furnish -- who has sued O'Neill alleging sexual abuse -- said he believes
the boy was 16, but O'Neill said he was 20.
Diocese spokesman Michael Tedesco said he and others in the Rochester
Diocese "have no knowledge of ... any kind of information about
a young man or boy who lived with him in the rectory."
The Rochester Diocese removed O'Neill's priestly faculties in May
2002 "because of what we thought were credible allegations of
abuse," Tedesco said.
Tedesco said the diocese did not have rules against minors living
with or staying overnight with priests at the time, but in 2003 passed
a new code of conduct that prohibits it.
- In Minnesota, the Rev. Francis Hoefgen invited a
suicidal teenager to move into his home. He later admitted to sexually
abusing the boy.
- And in California, the Rev. Oliver O'Grady was found
guilty of moving in with a single woman and sexually abusing her children
throughout most of the 1980s.