Archdiocese warned of priest’s ‘egregious’ conduct but kept his identity secret
May 7, 2014
|Archbishop J. Peter Sartain: A decade-old priest abuse case causes anger in north end parish.|
The Archdiocese of Seattle ignored the recommendations of its own review board, keeping secret the restrictions put on a priest whose conduct the panel described as “egregious.” A decade later, it is facing the upset flock of a north end Catholic parish.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and top deputies faced an angry audience of more than 150 parishoners at St. Bridget’s Church on Tuesday night.
Sartain had to acknowledge mistakes in a letter which claimed the archdiocese “learned recently that Harry Quigg did not comply with the terms of his ministry restrictions.”
In 2004, members of the archdiocesan case review board urged in a letter to Archbishop Alex Brunett, Sartain’s predecessor, that names of “offending” priests be disclosed:
“It will be much harder for those offending priests who do practice their ministry, even though barred, to do so because the entire church community will know and can inform the chancery if there is a barred priest involved in ministry.”
The board members had Harry Quigg in mind, writing:
“This is not an entirely academic discussion because a review board member was in the congregation of a liturgy that included the active participation of a priest whom you earlier indicated had been barred from the ministry.”
As the result of a sexual contact with a 17-year-old, Archbishop Brunett prohibited Quigg from performing his priestly ministry, presenting himself as a priest, or wearing clerical garb.
But Quigg’s name was never made public, to the consternation of many at the north end parish where he was once a popular pastor. He retired unexpectedly in 2000, but maintained social contact with a number of his former parishoners.
The decision to not to release Quigg’s identity was made by Brunett, apparently after considerable soul-searching. Brunett retired in 2010 and was succeeded by Sartain. The retired archbishop is currently recovering from a stroke.
Sartain was asked three times at Tuesday night’s meeting if Quigg’s name would have been made public had he been running the diocese. He indicated that Quigg’s identity would have been disclosed.
The archdiocesan case review Bbard did not hide its view of Quigg, whose case was one of 13 reviewed by the panel. The board was chaired by longtime King County Superior Court Judge Terrence Carroll and its vice chair was ex-U.S. Attorney Mike McKay.
Of Quigg’s conduct, the board — while his name was redacted in its report — said of the priest:
“The board determined that there was sufficient evidence gathered in the preliminary investigation to support the probably nature of the allegation that he was involved in the sexual abuse of a person who was 17 years old.”
Quigg’s conduct was “egregious” and “only through a fluke of canon law” did the board not act. The age of majority under both canon law and civil law was 16 at the time.
In a letter to Brunett, board members made the case for disclosure of offending priests’ names even if the Vatican had not made the final decision to remove them from ministry.
“We know that other dioceses have released the names before the Vatican has acted,” said the letter. “We strongly believe that this information should be released now because the faith community needs to know. For victims there is a measure of justice and accountability with public awareness of offending priests . . .
“Most importantly, the names should be released for parents. They need to know their children are safe. They will be consoled and know which priests are barred from the ministry.”
But Quigg was at the altar two years later at the funeral mass for a popular Assumption-St. Bridget’s School principal. He was wearing a clerical collar when seen by a former priest at a February, 2014, memorial service at the parish.
“He has been around us and our families,” said one parishoner, who asked to remain anonymous. She noted a party celebrating the 50th anniversary of Quigg’s ordination, and occasional social events at which the former pastor showed up waring his clerical collar.
Sartain and several deputies faced an angry crowd. Parishoners shouted down a proposal that most questions be directed to the archbishop in written form.
Sartain was “by far the most powerful presenter,” said another attendee, acknowledging mistakes by the archdiocese and fielding blunt and hostile questions from the floor. The meeting lasted until past 9:30 in the evening.
At the end of the session, the disclosure case out that a legal complaint had been made against Quigg had been settled in the late 1990s, six years before he was stripped of priestly duties. Quigg contested the allegation, and it was settled.
The crowd at St. Bridget’s grew host hostile at any hint of Let’s-Move-On by the archdiocese.
The archdiocese has promised “a thorough review” of the steps taken to prevent priests whose ministry has been restricted from violating the terms of those restrictions.
“The archdiocese takes the abuse of power and exploitation of the vulnerable, whether minors or adults, very serious,” it told St. Bridget’s in a statement last Friday.
So do we, those parishoners told Archbishop Sartain on Tuesday night.