Letter: Church offers callous response to a reasonable request

Yakima Herald-Republic [Yakima WA]

May 14, 2022

By David G. Clohessy

A Yakima native offers two options. He wants the grave of an accused predator priest moved. Or he wants the cemetery to include an admission that several abuse reports against the priest have been substantiated.

Michael Ross says the cleric, Msgr. Joseph Sondergeld, sexually violated him as a boy. (And two local church jurisdictions’ websites list Sondergeld as “credibly accused.”)

As the former national director of SNAP, I applaud Ross’ courage. And I deplore the disingenuous response by a top Yakima Catholic official to Ross’ simple request.

In dodging Ross’ proposal, Msgr. Robert Siler is doing what Catholic figures have done for decades and tragically, keep doing even now: parsing words, splitting hairs, evading responsibility and refusing to help deeply wounded victims heal from horrific childhood trauma, trauma that could have been prevented if only bishops had acted like caring shepherds instead of like cold-hearted CEOs.

No matter how this turns out, two things are clear. Michael Ross is seeking a tiny modicum of justice and closure for himself and others who were hurt long ago and are still hurting now. And Msgr. Siler, his boss Bishop Joseph Tyson and their clerical colleagues, are being callous and selfish in refusing to take this tiny step toward healing.


St. Louis