Seattle Archdiocese Pays Nearly $7 Million to Settle Men’s Claims That Six Priests Abused Them As Boys
By Lewis Kamb
November 13, 2018
|Jim Hauer tells his story of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Seattle Archdiocese priest. He is one of six men who collectively received $7 million from the Seattle Archdiocese to settle their sex-abuse claims. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)|
Jim Hauer and the five other men each claim they were victimized as children decades ago by priests assigned to churches and schools throughout Western Washington. In addition to receiving settlements, several expressed a demand that the church reveal its infamous "secret files" that for years protected and enabled abusers.
He’d just finished the eighth grade and was pursuing a plan to devote his life to God when Jim Hauer met the priest who he says introduced him to evil.
Back then, in 1976, Hauer said he “didn’t understand” how Father Theodore Marmo — a supervisor of the Seattle Archdiocese’s seminary studies program at John F. Kennedy High School in Burien — allegedly groomed him for abuse.
“I was innocent of thought,” Hauer recalled this week.
But now, some four decades later, Hauer can plainly recognize the tactics his alleged rapist employed: How Marmo separated him from the other boys his age; how the priest took him skiing and to movies; how he hired Hauer for jobs that kept the boy at St. Edwards Hall, the live-in seminary, over weekends and otherwise “enabled him to take advantage of me.”
Decades later, memories of what Marmo did to him mostly remained buried deep in Hauer’s mind until two years ago. That’s when the then-53-year-old San Francisco-based technology sales executive and married father of two sons received an unexpected call. A legal investigator in Seattle was on the line, checking into another man’s abuse claims about the priest.
“That brought forth just a load of memories,” Hauer said.
The deluge of dark secrets from his past forced Hauer to finally cope with what had happened, and eventually led him to file his own lawsuit against Seattle’s Archdiocese.
His case is among a spate of sexual-abuse claims separately brought by six men that the archdiocese recently settled by collectively paying nearly $7 million. Hauer and the five other men each claim they were victimized as children decades ago by priests assigned to churches and schools throughout Western Washington. Each man also claimed the archdiocese failed to protect him from abusive priests despite knowing the dangers they posed.
All of the accused priests — Marmo, James McGreal, Paul Conn, John Forrester, Thomas Pitsch and Michael Cody — were identified on the archdiocese’s list of credibly accused priests and clergy published in January 2016.
“These priests represent probably six of the most notorious and prolific abusers on the list,” said Michael Pfau, a Seattle attorney whose firm has represented scores of clients who’ve alleged clergy abuse, including the six men who received the recent settlements.
The Seattle Times typically does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse. Hauer gave the newspaper permission to use his name for this story. A second man, who also spoke with The Times, asked to be identified only by his initials, G.C. The newspaper did not speak with the four other alleged victims, who also were identified in legal documents by their initials.
The Seattle Archdiocese has admitted no wrongdoing as part of the latest settlements, all of which were paid within the past two months. In a statement Tuesday, the archdiocese noted “each of the recent cases involved alleged abuse occurred between 30 and 60 years ago. “
“The Archdiocese has attempted to arrive at fair and just settlements to assist victims with healing and to achieve some measure of closure,” the statement said. “The members of the clergy involved in all of these cases are either deceased or have been permanently removed from ministry.”
Like with past priest-abuse cases, some of the recently settled claims relied on information contained in the accused priests’ so-called “secret files” — confidential personnel records Catholic dioceses keep on clergy members, said Pfau, whose firm has obtained some of those records through legal discovery. Secret archives on accused priests, which Roman Catholic Canon law directs bishops to keep under lock and key, can often detail a diocese’s wider, hidden complicity in clergy sexual abuse dating back decades, those familiar with such records say.
Such files often contain internal correspondence, performance reviews and other records that can demonstrate how top officials within the archdiocese knew certain priests were dangerous sexual deviants, yet nonetheless sometimes helped facilitate their pedophilia by moving offenders from parish to parish to hide their crimes. Some of the latest cases demonstrate complicity by Seattle’s late archbishops Thomas Connolly and Raymond Hunthausen, Pfau said.
Along with calling for the Seattle Archdiocese to release the entirety of its secret archive on clergy abuse, Pfau said the church could do even more.
“I would like to see — and I know my clients would — the archdiocese to become a leader in calling for (legislation to) abolish the civil and criminal statute of limitations for sex abuse in this state,” he said.
Among the men who recently received settlements, T.A. claims he was abused as a boy in Port Angeles in the mid-1980s. By then, the archdiocese knew well that Fathers McGreal and Conn, the two priests assigned to Queen of Angels Parish in that town, were pedophiles, Pfau said.
Years earlier, in the summer of 1977, Hunthausen sent McGreal to a Maryland psychiatrist, who later warned the archbishop that the priest needed to be kept away from children, Pfau said. Still, when McGreal returned, Hunthausen continued to place him in churches with families and children, eventually moving him to Port Angeles, Pfau said. There, McGreal was paired with Conn, another priest who the archdiocese knew had molested children, Pfau said.
Both priests allegedly molested T.A. over the next several years. In 1988, Conn, then 36, was arrested and later admitted to molesting six altar boys between the ages of 11 and 13, court records show. He is believed to be the only accused priest within the Seattle Archdiocese to be convicted for crimes committed in Washington.
The other recently settled cases involve similar circumstances of neglect and cover-up, according to the men’s lawyers.
One of the alleged victims, T.H., was 13 in 1979 when he and his family attended St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Burien where Father John Forrester was assigned. By then, a psychiatrist also had warned the archdiocese that Forrester had history of abusing kids. While the diocese ordered Forrester to get therapy, it allowed him to keep working as a priest and with children, Pfau said.
Another man, J.M., alleges he was sexually abused by Cody in the early 1960s while he was a parishioner at Holy Family Parish in Seattle. Records show that, as early as the late 1950s, Connolly and other high-ranking clergy in Seattle knew Cody was a pedophile, but continually moved him from parish to parish as complaints against him emerged.
Still another man, K.Q., alleges that he, like Hauer, was abused by Marmo, after the priest befriended his family during an assignment at a Catholic church in Everett.
G.C., a sixth man to recently receive a settlement, said in an interview Monday that Pitsch started abusing him at St. Patrick Parish in Tacoma when he was just 8.
List of accused priests
Now 58 and working in the construction industry, G.C., who asked not to be named, said his parents both worked when he was a boy. After school, he would go to a relative’s home near the Tacoma church. When the head priest who the boy viewed as a hero singled him out as his special helper at the church, G.C. said his devout family “was over the moon.”
In the decades since, G.C. never told anyone about those three years that Pitsch sexually abused him. Then, two years ago, when the diocese released its list of accused priests, seeing Pitsch’s name triggered a flood in G.C.
“Just this wash of emotion — relief, anger, fear — it’s indescribable,” he said. “I told myself, I’m not going to live with this anymore.”
Along with filing his lawsuit, G.C. is now getting counseling and has opened up to his wife and family about what happened.
Hauer, too, is getting therapy. But he said he also seeks peace through his Catholic faith and “the traditions and values that are supposed to be in this organized religion.”
While G.C. avoided religion and no longer believes in God, he and Hauer separately share a common compulsion: Calling upon the church to come clean about its abusive history.
“The system that’s in place where the abusers are protected and there’s this ring of support that enables them has to be broken,” Hauer said. “And if I’ve had an experience that has given me insight and perspective on that inner ring, then I have a responsibility to speak to it. And that’s what I’m doing.”
“If the church wants to fix themselves, they must be totally transparent,” G.C. added. “There doesn’t need to be secret files. This happened. Fix your goddamned problem.”
Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2932 or firstname.lastname@example.org