Second Priest Resigns from Archdiocese Man Says That Cleric Sexually Abused Him in the 1970s
By Vanessa Ho
June 1, 2002
A second priest has resigned from the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese in light of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a boy in the 1970s, just one week after a prominent Everett priest resigned over accusations that he molested boys nearly 25 years ago.
The Rev. Dennis Champagne - the pastor of St. John Bosco in Lakewood and Immaculate Conception in Steilacoom - resigned from active ministry Thursday after a man told the archdiocese that he had been the victim of sexual misconduct by Champagne in 1979.
Champagne, 57 ((age)), did not return a call for comment.
But in a letter to the archdiocese, he said, "In light of the accusations that have been brought against me to the archdiocese in recent days, I think it is in the best interest of all concerned, if at this time, I offer you my resignation from active ministry."
The allegation first surfaced in 1986, when a priest wrote a letter to then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. The priest said someone told him Champagne molested a boy in 1979, when Champagne was the pastor of St. Michael in Snohomish.
The priest did not reveal the name of the alleged victim, who was by then an adult, according to a written statement from archdiocese spokesman Bill Gallant.
At the time, the man did not want his name revealed, and did not want to take part in any investigation of the complaint, Gallant said.
In accordance with policy at the time, a priest personnel director reviewed the complaint, and Champagne "entered psychiatric counseling," Gallant said. Based on the director's recommendations, Champagne was allowed to remain in ministry.
The accusation resurfaced last week, when the alleged victim called the archdiocese and said he was the subject of the 1986 complaint, Gallant said. The man also expanded on the complaint.
This time, because of new policies the archdiocese put in place in late 1980s, the allegation was turned over to law enforcement authorities, Gallant said. It was unclear yesterday which agency received it.
On Wednesday, the archdiocese told Champagne he had to go on administrative leave pending an investigation. He resigned instead.
Gallant said Archbishop Alexander Brunett was saddened by the allegation and understood the courage required for victims to come forward.
"I offer my prayerful support and humble apologies to anyone who may have been victimized, and hope the steps we are taking will help effect healing and the restoration of peace in our hearts and communities," Brunett said in a written statement.
Requests for comment from church staff and lay leaders at the Lakewood and Snohomish parishes were referred to the archdiocese.
Champagne was a longtime pastor in Snohomish and a state vice chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization.
A few years ago, in a Knights of Columbus event, Champagne led about 300 St. John Bosco parishioners on a two-mile pilgrimage that ended at Steilacoom's Immaculate Conception, which was a Jubilee 2000 pilgrimage site.
His resignation comes one week after the Rev. John Cornelius resigned from ministry, after facing a dozen allegations that he molested boys in the 1970s.
Also yesterday, the archdiocese's special-cases committee met to discuss individual cases of alleged clergy abuse and misconduct.
Gallant said they discussed Champagne's case, but he did not know what else they reviewed. One committee member said they made some recommendations, but declined to provide details.P-I reporter Vanessa Ho can be reached at 206-448-8003 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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