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  Sex-Abuse Survivors Demand Names of Dead Priests Withholding Names 'Re-Abuses' the Victims, Group Member Says

By Virginia de Leon
Spokesman Review
November 20, 2002

The priest who sexually abused Michael Ross has been dead for more than three decades.

But his actions 35 years ago still torture the Spokane resident, Ross said.

He can't sleep at night, haunted by the memories of being molested as a 12-year-old. His marriage and family life suffered. He contemplated suicide.

Ross wants the Spokane Diocese to acknowledge his pain, by naming the priest who abused him.

He and other members of the local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests demanded the names of dead priests accused of abuse, during a press conference Tuesday night after the victims' meeting in north Spokane.

"The cover-up continues, and we don't see an end to it," Ross said.

"They're not coming clean."

Bishop William Skylstad identified six priests last month who have been accused of sexual abuse. Although the diocese has filed police reports against six others who are now dead, it has declined to release their names.

They're no longer a threat, Vicar General Steve Dublinski said during an interview last month. Skylstad, during a press conference last week, said some of the allegations were vague.

The decision to withhold those priests' identity "re-abuses" the victims, Ross said. It's as if his suffering is less valid to the church than the experience of victims whose abusers are still alive.

David Schmidt, a Coulee Dam resident who drives to Spokane for the victims' meetings, says he was abused by two priests in Mount Angel, Ore., - one when he was 7 years old and the other when he was 14. Those priests - Clement Frank and Louis Charbet - are dead now, but the hurt they caused in his life has never gone away, he said.

He didn't wait for the Archdiocese of Portland to release the names. He made them public by filing a lawsuit against the archdiocese, the Mount Angel Abbey, where the priests worked, and the order of Benedictine monks.

The Diocese of Spokane must name the dead priests so other victims can come forward, Schmidt said.

"The pain is in the years of secrecy," said Schmidt. "You won't heal if their names remain a secret."

Ross was abused in Yakima, where he attended Catholic school and was an altar boy for the church, he said.

Before working for the Yakima Diocese, the priest who molested him worked in Spokane and throughout Eastern Washington, he said.

Ross knows of other victims, whose abusers are now dead.

"Many feel the guilt and shame put upon them by the church that they are afraid to come forward," he said.

The survivors network has made other demands from the diocese, including: disclosing allegations against all the priests and putting their names on the diocesan Web site; allowing victims and their advocates to meet at area churches; adding victims to the bishop's review board; and detailing how much money the diocese has spent in settlements and other expenses as a result of the clergy sex abuse.

During the bishop's press conference Friday, a day after the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Skylstad vowed to remain accountable and emphasized his commitment to helping victims.

Meanwhile, others want to enact civil laws to ensure that the Catholic Church comes clean. State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, has drafted legislation that would require clergy to report any suspicions of child abuse.

Former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett, working with the local survivors network, wants to eliminate all criminal and civil statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.

Skylstad said last week that whenever a victim comes forward, the diocese will immediately notify law enforcement. He also pledged to use his authority as bishop to immediately remove a priest from pastoral duties if credible allegations are made against the individual.

CORRECTION-DATE: November 21, 2002

CORRECTION:

Story incorrect: The Rev. Louis Charvet, 83, is living at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. A story in Wednesday's newspaper that mentioned a lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Portland incorrectly reported that he was deceased.

 
 

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