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  Bothell Priest Tells Congregation He Was Abused, Leaves Job

By Janet I. Tu jtu@seattletimes.com
Seattle Times
September 1, 2004

A highly regarded Bothell priest who stunned his congregation last weekend when he told them he had been sexually abused by a priest decades ago has resigned, leaving many unanswered questions about the abuse allegations, his current health and his whereabouts.

In a letter, the Very Rev. Lawrence Minder, pastor at St. Brendan Catholic Church, told Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett that he was resigning as pastor effective Sept. 30.

Minder, 43, has been in the news since May when he invited Tent City 4, a homeless encampment, to move to two acres of church property after an earlier plan by King County to host the encampment on county land fell through.

Minder's resignation letter, which Brunett received yesterday, did not state a reason for the resignation, and the priest has not contacted church officials to explain, said Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni.

Magnoni said the archdiocese does not know where Minder is now. Some parishioners said Minder had already been planning to be gone for most of September, first to the Mayo Clinic for a physical exam for back problems, then for rest.

"We still haven't heard from him, and we can't get in touch with him," Magnoni said.

According to parishioners who attended Saturday evening or Sunday morning Mass, Minder said he had been sexually molested when he was a teenager. He also said Brunett had asked him to undergo a psychological assessment, results of which would be available to the archbishop. Minder objected, saying he would resign, parishioners said.

According to court records, Minder was arrested in 1999 for drunken driving and paid a $1,115 fine. Magnoni said the archbishop had talked with Minder as late as last week about undergoing a psychological assessment over his alcohol use.

At one point Minder had apparently agreed to the assessment, Magnoni said, and church officials were not expecting his public objections to it.

A Benedictine monk before becoming a Seattle archdiocesan priest, Minder has been pastor at the 1,350-family St. Brendan Church since July 2001.

The developments have left his parishioners confused and seeking answers.

"There was so much shock first that he had been abused, sexually molested as a teenager. Then the fact that he was resigning his position at St. Brendan," said Bill Bell, 61, a Eucharistic minister at St. Brendan. "Everyone after Mass was sitting there trying to figure out: 'Now what in the world did we all hear?' "

Bell said that while he doesn't "have all the facts about Father Lawrence's situation," he considers him "one of the most caring and loving priests and pastors that I have ever known in my 61 years as a Roman Catholic."

Minder did not disclose who allegedly abused him, but officials in the Yakima Diocese said yesterday that Minder had come to them earlier with accusations against the Rev. Richard Scully.

Russell Mazzola, an attorney who heads the Yakima Diocese's lay advisory board, said he learned about Minder's complaint sometime in the past year but did not recall the details.

Scully, 58, had been the subject of a 1988 lawsuit that helped set state precedent that childhood sexual-abuse victims could sue not just an abuser but the church for up to three years after becoming aware of the harm the acts had caused.

In that case, a plaintiff identified as C.J.C. alleged that two priests Scully and the Rev. Dale Calhoun had molested him for years beginning in 1980 when he was 15 years old. The case was settled and the terms sealed.

Scully served in the Yakima Diocese from around 1978 to the mid-1980s, before he was sent to a Catholic treatment center in New Mexico for sexual abuse of minors.

In 1989, he arrived at the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, where the bishop knew his history. Scully was on medical leave in 2002 when parishioners at a church in that diocese accused him of sexual misconduct. The diocese removed him from active ministry in March 2002. He currently lives in Lafayette, La.

Minder, raised in an upper-middle-class family on the Sammamish Plateau, attended seminary in high school. He was a Benedictine monk for 16 years and earned four master's degrees. His twin brother is a priest in Rome.

Minder's decision to host Tent City 4 angered some local residents who said they weren't given enough notice. It also prompted a lawsuit from the city of Bothell, claiming the church violated municipal zoning codes.

During Tent City 4's 90-day stay on St. Brendan property, Minder pitched his own tent, walking around the encampment in sweat shirt and jeans. He was inspired, he said at the time, by "a Gospel mandate to help the homeless."

Highly regarded by parishioners, Minder is also respected by his peers.

Fellow priests elected him dean of the East King County Deanery, meaning he represented the concerns of priests in 14 parishes to the archbishop. His term expired yesterday.

He is also one of Brunett's advisers.

"It's an indication of the kind of trust and respect the archbishop has for Father Minder," Magnoni said.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com. Staff reporters Nick Perry and Jessica Delos Reyes contributed to this report.

 
 

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