Church Sex Abuse — Yakima Diocese Numbers

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington)
February 28, 2004

Six accused clergy members, $1.02 million paid out and 14 alleged victims.

Those are the grim numbers from the Catholic Diocese of Yakima.

Since 1950, 14 people have charged that six clerics from the local diocese sexually abused them.

Bishop Carlos Sevilla reports that dealing with the allegations of clergy abuse here have cost $1.02 million.

Sevilla emphasized that none of the six is still active in the ministry.

He publicly named four of the accused:

Fathers Dale Calhoun and Richard Scully, who are no longer practicing as priests.

Deacon Aaron Ramirez, who fled to Mexico in 1999 to avoid prosecution; he was subsequently laicized, meaning he is no longer an ordained minister.

Monsignor Joseph Sondergeld, who died in 1969.

Sevilla declined to identify the other two cases by name, but he did give details:

A settlement was made in 1999 involving a priest; conditions of the settlement specified keeping the names secret. The priest is no longer active in the ministry.

A case was settled two years ago involving a woman who alleged sexual misconduct 30 years ago by a priest. The man left the priesthood 20 years ago.

Sevilla has steadfastly declined to release names of accused priests who are deceased. Sondergeld is an exception because his name became public in June when Michael Ross, a former Yakima resident, filed suit in Spokane County Superior Court, alleging he was molested as a teen by Sondergeld in Yakima.

That case is in the deposition stage.

Although Spokane Bishop William Skylstad has agreed to release the names of deceased priests accused of sexual misconduct, Sevilla believes that policy may be unfair to the deceased.

"I don't see any benefit in that," he said.

Sevilla is confident the national reforms instituted by the church in 2002 will serve to protect children and other vulnerable people.

"No one in the active ministry in the Yakima Diocese has done (any abuse) or shown a propensity for it," Sevilla said.

Sevilla also noted that, to his knowledge, no further allegations of abuse are pending against the Yakima Diocese.


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