Spokane diocese settles second sex abuse claim

The Associated Press
September 20, 2003

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane announced it has reached a settlement with a plaintiff who claimed a former Spokane priest sexually abused him.

The unidentified plaintiff said James O'Malley was responsible for the abuse between 25 and 30 years ago, diocese officials said Thursday. O'Malley, 84, retired in 1989 and lives in Ireland.

The $50,000 settlement, which also provides the victim with counseling from a professional of his choosing, ends one of 10 lawsuits pending against the diocese stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by about 30 people.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, diocese vicar general, said the diocese withheld the victim's name at his request.

It is the second settlement of an abuse claim reported by the diocese in the last month. The first case involved a priest who was not identified by the diocese.

The diocese has not released financial terms of the first settlement, at that victim's request. The victim in that case was identified only as John Doe.

So far, Dublinski said, the diocese has paid for the settlements "out of pocket," using profits from investments. However, the church's insurers have indicated they may reimburse all costs, he said.

The church said in a written statement that it was making public the settlement in keeping with Bishop William Skylstad's "policy of transparency and prompt reporting."

"We are very interested in helping people move in the direction of healing," Dublinski said. "We're confident the church is moving in the right direction."

Val and Larry Pember, congregants who have attempted to rally other Catholics to demand changes within the church, praised the diocese for disclosing the amount of the settlement.

"They need to let the lay people know how much these cases are settling for," Larry Pember said. "At least they've stepped forward and done that."

The Pembers are not plaintiffs in any lawsuit against the diocese.

A group representing some of the abuse victims, however, was not pleased with the settlement.

Molly Harding, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Spokane, said the settlement represents "business as usual."

The group wants the cases played out in court, so allegations about the church hierarchy's attempts to cover up the abuse will become public.

"The secrecy continues," Harding said. "It's still hush, hush, … like nothing happened."

SNAP contends that as many as 35 Roman Catholic priests have molested children in Eastern Washington over the years. Some of those priests are dead.

The diocese has released the names of seven priests who have been accused of sexual molestation.

O'Malley, 84, was one of the priests who were identified by Skylstad last fall as alleged abusers.

The church withheld the names of six deceased priests, although one was made public in documents filed a lawsuit.

The abuse alleged in the lawsuits occurred decades ago.

Spokane County prosecutors have said they could not file criminal charges against the priests accused of sexual abuse because the statute of limitations has long passed.

Harding and other advocates for victims of child sexual abuse have pressed for changes in state law to allow prosecution of the crimes no matter how long ago they occurred.



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