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  Church Faces New Abuse Suit
Diocese knew of problem, but didn't remove priest, man says

By Virginia de Leon
Spokesman Review
May 9, 2003

A lawsuit was the last thing on Mike Shea's mind.

The Spokane resident, who says he was abused by a priest when he was 15 years old, just wanted honesty from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, an acknowledgment of the crime committed against him as a boy.

But the church never took accountability for what happened, Shea said.

"The cover-up continues," he said.

Shea filed a lawsuit Thursday against the diocese and his alleged perpetrator, Reinard Beaver, a priest removed from the ministry in 1983.

"Picture a great big glass ball," said Shea, who is 62. "This ball is my life. Beaver had the ball in his hand and he dropped it on the rocks and shattered it."

The lawsuit filed in Spokane County Superior Court is the fourth this past year against the Diocese of Spokane. It asserts the diocese was aware of Beaver's conduct but allowed him to continue his ministry.

Shea - one of seven children in a family of devout Catholics - lived two blocks from St. Augustine Church, where Beaver worked as the assistant pastor from 1956 to 1960.

Shea was an altar boy who sang in the choir and did odd jobs such as gardening around St. Augustine.

The church meant everything to him and to his family, he said. They trusted Beaver, who was ordained a priest in Walla Walla shortly before coming to St. Augustine.

During a 1956 trip to Seattle, Beaver took Shea along. He got the boy drunk, according to accounts from Shea and his psychologist, Mark Mays. Shea fell asleep and awoke in the basement with the priest fondling him, the accounts said. Outraged, Shea pushed him away and told him to stop. When he returned to Spokane, he severed his ties with St. Augustine.

He never told his parents why he stopped going to Mass.

According to the lawsuit, Shea "has been physically and psychologically damaged and continues to be damaged ...(and) experience mental anguish, humiliation and emotional and physical distress."

Throughout his life, he has had problems with alcohol and has married and divorced three times.

"It turned my world upside down and inside out," said Shea, a retired stockbroker who attended Gonzaga Prep and Gonzaga University.

Last October, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane named six priests who admitted to him that they had sexually abused minors. Beaver, who will turn 74 this month, was one of them.

In a brief interview from his home in Steilacoom, Wash., Beaver sounded shocked and flustered. He said he remembered knowing Shea in 1956 but declined to respond to the allegations.

"1956 was a long time ago," he said. "My memory is anemic. I remember him but I have not seen him since I left Spokane...

"It's an old, old story. The thing that doesn't work well for either one of us is that all the witnesses are dead."

Beaver is still a priest but was removed from active ministry in 1988.

After working at St. Augustine, Beaver spent six months at St. Ann in Spokane then served for three years in the U.S. Army Chaplains' Corps. During his stay at St. Augustine, Beaver was best known for helping discover the Chad Mitchell Trio, a group of young singers from Gonzaga University.

In 1983, then-Bishop Lawrence Welsh learned of accusations against Beaver on the West Side and removed him from ministry, said a statement from the Rev.

Steve Dublinski, vicar general for the diocese. Since that time, Skylstad has rejected several appeals from Beaver to be reinstated, Dublinski said.

Shea said he blocked out the painful memories for years, but they resurfaced after counseling sessions with Mays last year.

He said he has tried to talk to the bishop and others in the diocese about what happened, but claimed he has received little support.

In the statement, Dublinski said the bishop expressed his regrets and apologized for what happened to Shea. He also said the diocese has offered counseling on several occasions, but Shea declined.

Shea, however, said the diocese is paying for his therapy with Mays. He said that in a meeting with the bishop, he was told that the money to pay for the counseling came from Beaver.

Dublinski, in his statement, said Shea has misunderstood some of Skylstad's comments. The bishop also "continues to lead this diocese in a victim-centered response to the challenge this crisis has brought ... and he continues to work and pray for all those who have been victimized and all their families, friends and supporters who have been so terribly devastated by this terrible crime," Dublinski said.

After becoming aware of his alleged sexual abuse, Shea joined the local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He and other members have since shared their stories with the public to make people aware of the crimes committed against children. They also want to rally legislators to change the law to better protect kids from predators, Shea said.

"The Catholic Church is made up of wonderful people and I'm not after them," he said. "I'm after the hierarchy, the people who protected the pedophiles."

 
 

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