It's possible that just five of the 77 Catholic priests and clergy members in western Washington identified as likely sex abusers of children were ever convicted.
The Seattle Times reported Sunday (http://is.gd/vet1nH ) that it came to that conclusion after analyzing a list published this month by the Seattle Archdiocese. The list includes names of priests and other clergy who served or lived in western Washington since the 1920s "for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible" following a two-year review by a consultant and an archdiocese-appointed board.
The newspaper said it could find evidence of convictions for just five, and only one of those — Paul Joseph Conn, who served at a Port Angeles church in the late 1980s — was convicted in Washington. More may have been prosecuted, the newspaper said. For some offenders, a lack of information about their whereabouts or other details makes it impossible to readily find a record of criminal charges. And some cases go back decades, before court records can be readily found.
The archdiocese declined to provide further identifying information for the listed clergy, including middle names and dates of birth, which would have made it easier to check some of the names. It also hasn't publicly disclosed their case files.
Conn was a 36-year-old priest at the Queen of Angels church in 1988 when he admitted to molesting six altar boys between the ages of 11 and 13, court records show.
"This stuff is in my past, and that's where I want to leave it," Conn told the newspaper.
Four others — Edmund Boyle, Robert Brouillette, Louis Ladenburger and George Silva — all served in western Washington at times, but were convicted of sex crimes against children in other states. Boyle, now deceased, retired from Mount St. Vincent in Seattle in 1984 and spent a total of about 15 years in the Seattle Archdiocese. He pleaded guilty in Nevada in 1987 to one count of lewdness with a child for exposing himself, according to news accounts and interviews.
Brouillette and Silva each was assigned to O'Dea High School in Seattle for a few years during their careers, and Ladenburger served four years at St. George Parish on Beacon Hill.
Another priest on the list — Dennis Kemp, who served at St. Monica Catholic Church in Mercer Island between 2002 and 2007 — was accused of touching an altar boy, but King County prosecutors declined to charge him. "It did not rise to the level of a criminal offense, based upon the information we had at the time," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Johnson, who heads the office's Special Assault Unit.
Many cases of child sex abuse involving Catholic clergy surfaced years after the alleged crimes occurred — and beyond the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges, those familiar with the archdiocese's review said.
"A lot of these were just not prosecuted," said Kathleen McChesney, the consultant hired by the archdiocese's law firm to compile the list. "The allegations were either brought after the statute of limitations, or there might not have been the proper investigations done."
Mary Dispenza, Northwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she's not surprised so few of the clergy were prosecuted.
"No matter how many kids they assaulted, very few predator priests are ever prosecuted," said Dispenza, herself a survivor of a priest's sexual abuse. To increase such dismal prosecution numbers, lawmakers must "repeal the arbitrary deadlines that stop victims from exposing these predators in court and increase penalties for those who hide child sex crimes," she said.
Since the late 1980s, the Seattle Archdiocese has paid about $74?million in civil settlements for 392 claims of sexual abuse of minors, including at least $1.1 million paid to three of Boyle's victims.