Catholic Deacon, 56, Pulled from Ministry by Bishop; Church Guidelines for Work with Minors Breached; Twisp Police Interview Girl, Mom

By Carla K. Johnson
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
July 23, 2003

A 56-year-old deacon who served parishes in the central Washington towns of Brewster and Twisp was removed from the ministry Tuesday for violating Catholic Church guidelines for ministers in their interactions with minors.

Details were sketchy Tuesday. Twisp Police Chief Charlie Lingo said his department interviewed a teenage girl and the girl's mother before deciding to drop the case without charging anyone.

Deacon Wynn Webster, removed Tuesday, was the only deacon assisting the Rev. Jose Luis Hernandez at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Brewster and St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Twisp. He was paid for his work.

Webster could not be reached for comment.

"All ministers of the church know the absolute imperative we have to protect children and vulnerable adults not only from actual instances of abuse, but also from any appearance of impropriety that could be misconstrued

by others or lead to the potential for abuse," said Bishop William Skylstad in a statement.

No laws were broken, the bishop said, but church guidelines had been.

The diocese first learned of the situation from Hernandez, pastor for the two parishes. He reported the incident to the Rev. Steve Dublinski, who has been handling sexual misconduct cases for the diocese.

The diocese contacted the Twisp police on July 7, Dublinski said. The police had learned of the incident about a week earlier from the girl's parents.

The Diocesan Review Board, a group of lay people that considers allegations

of sexual misconduct, considered the case on July 18, Dublinski said. The review board recommended Webster's removal.

Skylstad announced Tuesday he had accepted the recommendation.

Deacons are ordained. Some are paid and most are married. They can perform weddings and other services and also can take on administrative responsibilities.

Skylstad traveled to Brewster Tuesday to meet with Hernandez about the situation.


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