Report Criticizes Archdiocese for Ignoring Troubling Behavior by Priests
By Claudia Rowe
Seattle Post-Intelligence [Seattle WA]
October 6, 2004
A blunt, 15-page report on sexual abuse within the Seattle Archdiocese, released yesterday, makes plain that poor record keeping and a habit of ignoring troubling behavior by clerics was endemic into the early 1990s and likely contributed to the molestation of dozens of children by Roman Catholic priests here.
For more than a year, a panel of 10 men and women -- half Catholics, half not -- pored over church personnel files, investigative paperwork and victims' testimony. Their charge was to determine whether 13 accused priests were fit for ministry, but the Case Review Board members, led by retired Superior Court Judge Terrence Carroll, went further than that.
They urged greater transparency among church officials and far more input from the laity. They tried to answer the larger question surrounding priests who molest children: Why?
"It's about a change in attitude and approach," Carroll said of the board's overall recommendation for the Seattle Archdiocese. "It's about maturing and coming to grips."
The board made several recommendations, among them: Pursue each priest accused of abuse, even though 36 of them have left the archdiocese; create a system for handling personnel files; and pay attention to complaints by parishioners.
In all these areas, Seattle fell short, panel members found. Yet Carroll acknowledged that the archdiocese tried to grapple with the problem long before many others.
"We have no recent allegations, and that's something," he said. "They didn't do enough, but they did try to take steps and that needs to be commended."
Among the areas singled out for particular criticism were the archdiocese's personnel files -- often shoddy or incomplete, the board said -- and its method for handling obviously erratic behavior on the part of priests.
In virtually every case it reviewed, the board found evidence of "autocratic and narcissistic personality styles, outbursts of anger and mistreatment of parishioners, alcoholism, financial improprieties, paranoia, extreme eccentricities and reasonably clear evidence of mental disorders."
With few exceptions, none of the odd conduct was formally addressed, the report says.
In addition, when victims reported that they had been abused, most were sent to therapists untrained to assess the truth of their allegations.
"This was profoundly difficult in many ways," Carroll said of the board's work. "The stories and the suffering that we learned about were in many cases extremely difficult to hear."
Despite a sometimes contentious process, Archbishop Alex Brunett was pleased with the board's work, said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman.
"The case review board absolutely met every expectation that the archbishop had, even influencing him to take steps he might not otherwise have taken," Magnoni said.
Specifically, the board insisted that a priest be removed from ministry, even though his victim was 18 at the time of actual contact, Magnoni said. That priest remains unidentified pending a final ruling from the Vatican, as do nine others whose cases have not yet been decided.
Three men -- James McGreal, David Linehan and Patrick McMahon -- have been removed from ministry, and last week John Cornelius, accused of abusing more than 20 boys, was defrocked.
Even after a career in criminal justice, Carroll was unprepared for the effect of such an in-depth examination. "I came in knowing that evil happens," he said.
"I am coming out of this experience knowing that the Catholic Church is not immune from the reaches of evil. It is, above all, a human institution."
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