Spokane WA Bishop Begins Parish Tour
Associated Press, carried in Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 21, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. -- At a prayer service in a Roman Catholic parish where at least two priests who sexually abused children once worked, Bishop William Skylstad apologized and asked parishioners' forgiveness.
Tuesday's visit to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Parish in northwest Spokane, where Skylstad once served as pastor, was mandated by terms of a $48 million bankruptcy settlement.
Skylstad plans similar prayer services in about 30 of the 82 parishes in his Eastern Washington diocese. The services are part of a settlement to bring the diocese out of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing that was precipitated by lawsuits filed by people who had been abused.
Assumption Parish is one of four, along with the downtown cathedral, that are being used as collateral to back loans necessary to pay the victims and their lawyers. Skylstad told about 50 parishioners that two former priests, Patrick O'Donnell and Garry Boulden, have been "credibly accused" of abuse.
O'Donnell, who was an assistant under Skylstad in the 1960s, has admitted in depositions that he abused dozens of boys.
Boulden is listed on the diocese Web site as among those credibly accused of abuse. His current location was not immediately known.
"In your church, priests have abused your children. In your name we beg your mercy for this sin," Skylstad said. "I express an apology and ask for forgiveness."
The settlement also allows those who were abused to speak to parishes, but no one did so Tuesday.
Steve Barber, who says he was an altar boy when he was abused by O'Donnell, sat in the back of the church. Afterward, he said the settlement money and the words of a prayer service offered him little healing.
"I expected something different," Barber said. "It was mass printed, to the letter. It was rehearsed. People in the pews are sorry, and I'm sure the bishop is sorry he got caught. I don't know."
Later, the bishop said he recognizes that healing won't be easy.
"It's a journey of healing and reconciliation and it takes time," Skylstad said. "It doesn't happen with one experience. It takes time and we're deeply committed to that."
Skylstad, former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, steered the diocese into bankruptcy protection in late 2004 to deal with scores of claims of sex abuse by O'Donnell and others.
Of the $48 million settlement, parishes were required to raise $10 million. A special trust already has received $44 million. The remainder is due by October 2009.
The settlement reached earlier this year prohibited disclosure of the number of victims and how much each received, but estimates are about 150 people.
Each victim will receive from $15,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the severity of the molestation or rape. A former U.S. attorney is deciding how much each person receives.
The bulk of the settlement, $20 million, will come from insurance settlements, and the diocese has sold buildings and land, including the bishop's home and the diocese headquarters in downtown Spokane, to raise money.
Four other dioceses nationwide have sought bankruptcy protection against clergy sex abuse lawsuits, including San Diego; Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Ore.; and Tucson, Ariz. All but Davenport have emerged from emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
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