Priest Returns to Post after Church Clears Him in Sex-Abuse Case

Associated Press State & Local Wire [Seattle]
May 30, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest has returned to active ministry at a Monroe parish after a church inquiry cleared him of a sexual-abuse allegation from the 1990s.

The Rev. Michael C. OBrien was warmly welcomed by parishioners as he celebrated Mass Sunday at St. Mary of the Valley Church, KOMO-TV News reported.

The Seattle Archdiocese announced Saturday that he was cleared to resume pastoral duties, The Seattle Times reported Sunday. He had been placed on administrative leave last month while an investigation was reopened into a claim that he had sexually abused a teenage boy on a canoe trip 13 years ago.

OBrien, now 64, has denied the allegation.

"Sexual abuse against minors is such a terrible thing ... the error in the past has been to not recognize it and that's an additional abuse to people who are abused because when it's denied, that hurts them all the more," he told KOMO.

OBrien said the time he spent on leave is "a small price to pay for the protection of children."

He said he was "overjoyed" to return to his parish.

When the teenage boy accused him in 1993, he was placed on leave from his post at St. John Church in Vancouver, Wash., and the allegation was reported to civil authorities in Pierce and Mason counties, church officials said.

An investigation by Mason County authorities was dropped for reasons that are unclear, said archdiocesan spokesman Greg Magnoni.

The archdiocese reopened the investigation last month and he was placed on administrative leave April 2. The church's case-review board, which is charged with deciding the suitability for ministry of accused priests, raised questions as to whether the original investigation was adequate.


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