Former Zillah Resident Sues Diocese, Claiming Priest Abused Her

By Mark Morey
Yakima Herald-Republic
February 2, 2005

A former Zillah woman who claims she was abused as a child by a parish priest in Toppenish has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Yakima.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Yakima County Superior Court, alleges that the now-deceased Rev. Michael J. Simpson molested a Bible school student in the sacristy at St. Aloysius Catholic Church.

Simpson also forced the unidentified girl, who was 10 years old at the time of the 1962 incident, to dress in boys' clothing and walk around at his command, according to the complaint.

Simpson came to the family's home after the girl's sister reported the incident to her parents.

Her father punched the priest in the face, throwing off his glasses. In front of the congregation the next day, Simpson blamed the injury on a car crash, according to the lawsuit.

Tacoma attorney Michael Pfau, whose firm has represented about 100 clients in Catholic sex-abuse cases in Spokane and Seattle, said the woman's claim is the first his firm has handled from the Yakima area. The woman now lives in the Seattle area.

"She has been wrestling with this and decided that she felt she needed to tell her story and felt like she needed to see both an apology from the diocese and compensation from the diocese," Pfau said.

The lawsuit states that the woman's sister was also abused, but she has not chosen to pursue legal action, Pfau said.

Attorneys don't have information yet about how long Simpson served in the Yakima diocese, Pfau said.

A diocesan representative did not return a call on Tuesday.

In February 2004, the diocese disclosed that it had spent slightly more than $1 million to settle abuse cases involving a half-dozen clergy. Simpson was not among those priests named by the diocese.

Pfau said most of the publicized cases in Washington involved male victims.

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of damages.

Pfau said he does not believe that any of the Catholic church units across the country should have filed for bankruptcy protection to protect themselves from the abuse-related claims.

Spokane's bishop took that step, but it hasn't happened in Yakima.

"Yakima could do the right thing and settle this case," Pfau said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.