Priest Is Barred from Ministry
Vatican OKs Action on Gandrau over Abuse Claim
By Athima Chansanchai and Claudia Rowe
July 12, 2005
An edict from the Vatican allowed the Archdiocese of Seattle yesterday to move forward on allegations of child sexual abuse and permanently bar retired priest James Gandrau from ministry.
Gandrau, 72, former pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Ballard and St. Monica Catholic Church on Mercer Island, was one of 13 priests investigated by an independent panel of judges, lawyers and child sexual abuse experts two years ago. He is the fifth priest in the archdiocese to be removed from ministry because of allegations of molesting minors.
Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett released a statement that said: "The Archdiocese of Seattle regrets any harm to the victims of child sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or any of its employees. We released information today regarding the case of James Gandrau in accordance with our policies to promote healing."
Gandrau declined to comment yesterday, referring calls to his attorney, Thomas Frey.
"The only comment he's authorized me to release is that this matter involved allegations that are 30 years old and that he categorically denies ever molesting any child," Frey said. "By that, we're talking about any kind of sexual molestation."
The archdiocese did not provide details of the allegations, but a 46- year-old woman who said Gandrau abused her when she was 10 settled her case against the archdiocese earlier this year. Settlement terms were confidential, said her lawyer, Michael Pfau.
Brunett created the Archdiocesan Case Review Board in 2003 to review allegations of child sexual abuse by the clergy. The panel investigated 13 priests and cleared three. The archdiocese permanently removed three from exercising priestly ministry - David Linehan, Patrick Desmond McMahon and James McGreal. A dozen of McGreal's victims - hundreds of boys over several decades, according to the former priest - won a $1.8 million settlement in December. He now lives in a locked treatment center for priests in Missouri.
The Vatican defrocked another, John Cornelius, last year. He was accused of molesting dozens of boys in Seattle during the 1970s and '80s.
Terrence Carroll, a retired superior court judge who was chairman of the archdiocese's priest review board, said Gandrau had been among those examined by the 10- member panel - one of six priests whose status was pending a decision from Rome.
Carroll has repeatedly voiced his concern that the archdiocese refused to release the names of priests examined by the board. The Vatican's removal of Gandrau from ministry vindicated that position, he said.
"We had urged that the publication of these names be done right away, and we don't understand why all this time has gone by," Carroll said. "It seems unfair to the victims - and in many ways to the clergy."
The archdiocese's reluctance to publicly name the priests suspected of child sexual abuse had, Carroll said, only led to the continued sense among some parishioners that the church was hiding information.
"Openness and transparency is exactly what the church needs to be doing to put this behind and move on," he said. "You can't do something that raises more questions."
The archdiocese's payments to victims of child sexual abuse are up to about $19 million.
The decision will strip Gandrau of a title he's carried for more than 40 years and render him unable to say Mass, conduct marriage ceremonies or administer the sacraments.
Gandrau served in five Seattle Archdiocese parishes from 1958 to 2002, beginning with St. James Cathedral in Seattle after his 1958 ordination. He remained there until 1965. While he was there, he began editing the archdiocese newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, in 1960. He remained editor until 1977.
He resided at St. Mark Catholic Church in Shoreline in 1965 until 1977, when he became pastor at St. Monica on Mercer Island. He ministered there until 1990.
St. Monica's Web site credits Gandrau with placing "a high priority on developing a solid religious program in the school and parish, and he continued to develop the youth and young adult programs." Under his guidance, a chapel and grotto to house the Madonna of Mercer Island was built, as well as a remodeled sacristy, a memorial to Gandrau's predecessor, a new gym, family center and a bell tower. A message left at St. Monica was not returned yesterday.
In 1991, he was parochial vicar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vancouver, Wash. Later that year, he became pastor of St. Alphonsus in Ballard, where he stayed until his retirement in 2002.
The St. Alphonsus Web site credited Gandrau with renovating the parish convent, which had been vacated by the Dominican Sisters, and converting it into Fonzi's, a center for senior parishioners. The parish referred all calls to the archdiocese.
Franz Gruber, who has lived next door to Gandrau for 16 years in a community just outside Paradise Bay south of Port Ludlow, described him as "the perfect neighbor" and "not the kind of man who would do that." Gruber said his friend has devoted his life to ministry.
"It's going to tear him apart. It'll be terrible, when you give your life to something and then suddenly it's taken away from you. It would be devastating to anyone."
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