Former Tacoma Catholic nun and priest added to clergy abuse accusation list

News Tribune [Tacoma WA]

March 31, 2023

By Craig Sailor

A former Tacoma Catholic nun and a priest were added to an official list of clergy and others accused of abuse, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced Friday.

Sister Jerry Lyness and Father Thomas Phelan were added to the official list of “Clergy and Religious Brothers and Sisters for Whom Allegations of Sexual Abuse of a Minor Have Been Admitted, Established or Determined to be Credible.”

Lyness was a teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School from 1976 to 1994 and she served as co-principal there from 1991 to 1994. Phelan served as pastor at St. Ann Parish from 1973 to 1983. Both are dead. St. Ann Parish was recently merged into the new Pope Saint John XXIII Parish.

In December 2022, the Archdiocese settled a case involving allegations of childhood sexual abuse by Phelan which occurred in approximately 1978 at St. Ann.

Also in December 2022, the Archdiocese and the Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma settled a case involving allegations of inappropriate touching by Lyness which occurred in approximately 1982 at St. Patrick.


First published in 2016, the list contains the names of those who have credible accusations made against them. The list has links to other public lists provided by religious orders that worked in the archdiocese as well as status updates of people currently on the list.

This week, Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne approved the additions of Lyness and Phelan to the list after an independent review from former FBI-agent Dr. Kathleen McChesney and her firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, and with guidance from the Archdiocesan Review Board.

The archdiocese’s Protect and Heal website has a section on the history of sexual abuse in the archdiocese, which it says peaked in 1975.

Since the early 1980s, the archdiocese said it has taken steps to prevent abuse. It enforces its Safe Environment Program with policies and procedures designed to prevent sexual abuse and recognize its signs.

The public can report a suspicion of abuse by any Catholic Church personnel to local law enforcement. Anyone with knowledge of misconduct by a member of the clergy, an employee or a volunteer of the archdiocese can call the archdiocesan hot line at 1-800-446-7762.