Former St. Rose Priest’s Tale Saddens, Shocks Parishioners

By Amy M. E. Fisher
The Daily News [Longview WA]
September 2, 2004

Members of St. Rose Catholic Church in Longview were surprised and saddened to learn Wednesday that their former pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Minder, had been sexually abused as a boy by a priest and was resigning from his parish.

"I was flabbergasted," said Willie Ladd, a member of St. Rose for 21 years. "I'm just sorry it happened."

Minder, who was pastor at St. Rose from 1996 to 1998 and now lives in Bothell, Wash., broke the stunning news last weekend during three masses at St. Brendan Catholic Church. He told parishioners that 30 years ago, a priest sexually abused him and remained on assignment in Yakima after Minder reported what happened.

Minder, 43, then announced he would resign rather than undergo a church-ordered psychological assessment, churchgoers said. Although Archbishop Alex Brunett received Minder's brief letter of resignation Wednesday, Minder has not directly contacted his superiors to explain why he suddenly quit his parish, according to an Archdiocese of Seattle press release.

"I think we're all kind of surprised at the public nature of (Minder's announcement)," said the Rev. Scott Connolly, former pastor of St. Rose. "It's very, very difficult in this day and age to live as a Roman Catholic priest under the current scrutiny and suspicion that the church is dealing with. ... In that regard, this has come as a shock."

Connolly, now pastor of the newly formed Blessed Theresa of Calcutta in Woodinville, Wash., said he spoke to Minder on Wednesday morning. Connolly took over the St. Rose parish after Minder left in 1998, remaining there until June of this year.

"Father Minder was a victim when he was a young person, and I think part of the healing process for the victim is to deal with the demons of abuse head-on, and that's what he's trying to do," said Connolly, who described Minder as a good friend. "I'm saddened that this has occurred, but at the same time, I don't know that it's necessarily a really bad situation. ... It could be a really healing and growth-filled experience."

Although Minder is resigning as leader of St. Brendan parish, he is not leaving the priesthood, Connolly said. The responsibilities of being pastor of a church are simply too much for Minder right now, his friend said.

Connolly said this year has been stressful for Minder, who drew the public's attention for allowing homeless people to live in a tent city on church grounds. He lived in the encampment for a few weeks.

Minder is in Bothell now "just sitting back and trying to ... sort things out," Connolly said. He is taking calls only from friends and family, Connolly said.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a spokesman for the Seattle Archdiocese said he can't discuss why the psychological evaluation was requested because it is a personnel matter. The archdiocese has not received any sexual abuse allegations against Minder, the Post-Intelligencer reported.

When asked why Minder refused to take the psychological evaluation, Connolly said, "I think that Father Lawrence as a victim is trying to take some control over how this process is handled."

During mass last weekend, Minder did not name his abuser or say where it happened, but last year he filed a claim accusing the Rev. Richard Scully of abusing him when he was a boy in Yakima, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

After the Yakima Diocese sent Scully to a treatment program for pedophile priests, the Diocese in Amarillo, Texas, hired him in 1989, the Dallas Morning News reported. The Yakima Diocese settled two claims filed against Scully, who recently took a medical retirement, the Dallas newspaper also said.

"I loved Father Lawrence, and I just feel terrible that this happened to him," said a staff member at the St. Rose parish office who did not her name used. "He was a wonderful priest, very spiritual."

Minder, originally from the Sammamish Plateau east of Seattle, spent 16 years as a Benedictine monk and earned four master's degrees before becoming a parish priest.

Salliann Brill, 75, a member of St. Rose for 35 years, said she wrote Minder a letter Wednesday telling him she's prayed for him every day since he left St. Rose.

"He was the most caring, sensitive individual I can think of," she said.

This latest revelation about a priest committing sexual abuse does not further harm the reputation of the priesthood, Brill said.

"People are people, regardless of whether they're physicians or priests or rabbis," she said. "We all have human frailties and failings, and you don't judge a group of people by a few”.


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