Bishop Disputes Woman's Complaints of Poor Church Response
By Jane Gargas
February 19, 2005
Bishop Carlos Sevilla of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima is disputing public statements made this week by a Seattle-area woman suing the diocese.
In a Yakima news conference Wednesday, Rose Yates Lamey, 53, said she was in town to serve Sevilla personally with a copy of her lawsuit, filed two weeks earlier.
Lamey alleges she was sexually abused by a priest at St. Aloysius Church in Toppenish more than 40 years ago.
During the news conference, Lamey indicated the diocese has not been responsive to her allegations that she was raped by the Rev. Michael J. Simpson, who is now deceased.
But Sevilla took strong exception to Lamey's charge that the diocese hasn't been responsive.
"I'm sorry, it's simply not true that we never offered to help," Sevilla said in a telephone interview Thursday night.
The bishop met with Lamey one-on-one last August and, he said, apologized for any pain she may have suffered.
The diocese also has been paying Lamey's mental-health counseling bills "out of genuine concern for her well-being," Sevilla said.
Lamey's attorney, Tim Kosnoff of Seattle, confirmed Friday that the diocese is paying her therapy bills.
"They have paid for some of her counseling," Kosnoff said, "but it hasn't been a smooth road. We've had to negotiate conditions, which have been a kind of re-victimization of her."
Kosnoff alleged the diocese has been recalcitrant about the counseling process and, at one point, didn't pay the counselor's invoices for six months.
Further, Kosnoff said, diocesan officials insisted the therapist send a review of each session to them.
A follow-up call to Kosnoff requesting documentation of those two accusations wasn't answered Friday.
Sevilla said Friday the diocese has never been reluctant to provide counseling for Lamey, and is continuing to pay for it. Nor have diocesan officials ever asked for accountings of each session, he said, although they have requested periodic updates from the counselor to make sure progress is being made.
"That's standard procedure," said Sevilla, who added the diocese is committed to paying for therapy "for a reasonable amount of time."
Seattle attorney Tom Freh, who represents the diocese in legal matters, said the number of sessions the diocese will cover varies with the client.
In a Friday telephone interview, Lamey said she kept her abuse allegations against Simpson secret for many years but recently decided she needed to go public for two reasons.
"I'm not a gold digger," she emphasized. "I'm just trying to make people accountable and let other victims know that they can also come forward, and truth will prevail."
Lamey said that in 1962, when she was 10 years old, Simpson sodomized her in a Toppenish church building. She was living in Zillah at the time with her parents and 13 siblings.
The incident profoundly affected Lamey, said attorney Kosnoff, leaving her with multiple problems including depression and other anxiety issues, as she grew to adulthood.
"No one can ever give me back my innocence," said Lamey.
She claims that Simpson was transferred from the Toppenish parish to White Swan not long after she complained about the priest to her parents, and he was subsequently moved from parish to parish.
Kosnoff said he and Lamey needed to make their case public because they doubt the diocese is encouraging other victims of priest abuse to step forward and seek help.
"They aren't protecting children; they're protecting the image and purse of the church," Kosnoff said. "There has been real harm done here, and we believe the diocese is responsible."
Sevilla reiterated Friday that diocesan officials have always responded to anyone who has contacted them to report being victimized by a cleric.
Attorney Freh also underscored that the diocese has been open and receptive to anyone who has alleged cleric abuse.
"I don't know of any bishop who has been more open about meeting with people," he said. "Bishop Sevilla has a real concern for these people."
Sevilla added that he has traveled to Oregon and California to speak to people who say they were victims of sexual misconduct by a cleric of the diocese.
And the bishop said he twice telephoned Lamey's sister, Mary Yates Smith, after she said she was also abused by Simpson.
According to Sevilla, Smith said she did not want to pursue the matter.
Smith attended Wednesday's news conference with Lamey and said she wasn't sure if she would file suit.
Freh and Yakima attorney Patrick Shirey, who also represents the diocese in legal matters, were critical of Kosnoff calling the news conference to talk about Lamey's lawsuit.
Freh cited the state bar association's Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibit attorneys from making public statements that could be prejudicial to a jury prior to a trial.
"The press conference has the potential to be a violation of that (rule)," Freh said.
Shirey added: "Legal cases should be argued in court, not in the media."
Kosnoff countered that the Yakima diocese has been secretive and is trying "to keep a lid on this story."
Bishops around the country are being "silent and corrupt and aren't capable of reforming the church," Kosnoff said.
He added that representatives of the diocese and Lamey met with a professional mediator to try to reach a monetary settlement, but those talks broke down.
Kosnoff attributed that failure to the diocese refusing to offer enough money for Lamey's counseling in future years.
Freh wouldn't comment on whether there had been mediation.
Since Wednesday's news conference, Kosnoff said six more people have come forward to say they, or someone they know, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Simpson. The accusers called Kosnoff and a Yakima radio station, he said.
Sevilla said he regrets any pain caused to anyone abused by a cleric, adding that the diocese stands ready to help people who call the toll-free confidential sexual abuse hot line, (888) 276-4490.
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