Diocese Denies All Allegations

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
February 25, 2005

The Catholic Diocese of Yakima has formally denied all allegations of sexual abuse by a priest that a recent lawsuit has raised.

On Wednesday the diocese answered the lawsuit, filed in early February in Yakima County Superior Court.

"Defendant is without information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations and therefore denies them," lawyers for the diocese wrote in their answer.

The sexual-abuse lawsuit was brought by former Zillah resident Rose Yates Lamey, who claims she was raped by the Rev. Michael Simpson in 1962 when she was 10.

Thomas Frey and Michael Bolasina, Seattle attorneys representing the diocese, said in their legal response that the diocese had no knowledge of any alleged abuse at the time on the part of Simpson, who is deceased.

Frey and Bolasina also argued that the statute of limitations has elapsed in the case. Generally, juvenile victims of sexual abuse have three years after they reach adulthood to file lawsuits. One exception could be "repressed memory," in which the victim doesn't remember the incident until undergoing therapy.

The next step for Lamey's lawsuit will be a scheduling order set by the court.

Although Lamey, who lives in the Seattle area, is the sole plaintiff in the lawsuit, her sister, Mary Yates Smith, also says that she suffered abuse at the hands of Simpson.

In a story about Lamey's allegations against the diocese, published in last Saturday's Yakima Herald-Republic, Bishop Carlos Sevilla said he had met with Lamey last August and that he had phoned Smith twice to discuss her complaint of priest abuse.

Smith, who lives in Spokane, had a strong reaction after hearing about Sevilla's claim.

"I have never in my life spoken with the bishop on the phone. I've never even heard his voice," she said in a telephone interview.

Questioned by the newspaper Thursday about the discrepancy, the bishop said he had been mistaken.

Offering an apology, Sevilla explained that he had confused Smith with another woman.

"I jumped to the wrong conclusion, and I regret very much this case of mistaken identity," he said.

Sevilla explained that a woman named Mary had telephoned him in 2003 to complain about an incident with a priest years ago. Sevilla said he subsequently phoned her twice to discuss how she wanted to proceed.

Lamey mentioned to Sevilla in their August meeting that she thought her sister, Mary, had already contacted the diocese with her complaint about priest abuse.

When Sevilla read the newspaper article about Lamey's lawsuit, he said he mixed up the two Marys and thought he had already spoken to Lamey's sister.

"I readily apologize to Mary Smith," he said.


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