Skylstad Lawyer Says Defamation Lawsuit Is Frivolous, Improper

By John Stucke
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
November 17, 2006

A defamation lawsuit against Catholic Bishop William Skylstad and a priest is frivolous and so improper that the attorney who filed it should be fined, a defense lawyer said in court filings Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Beth Bollinger this week, is rooted in whether a priest now serving two small parishes in the Palouse possessed child pornography 10 years ago when he was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Wilbur.

A rectory housekeeper at the time, Katherine Muzzall, said she found a book of child pornography in the bedsheets of the Rev. Edward Marier and told the bishop, according to her complaint.

The bishop and Marier contend the pornography depicted men, not children, said their attorney, Greg Arpin, in a response filed in Spokane County Superior Court. The dispute boiled over in 2004 when news media began asking questions about the episode, along with Marier's 1999 arrest for lewd conduct at a Spokane porn shop.

The media inquiry prompted Skylstad to issue a tough-worded release to reporters denying Muzzall's allegations of child porn. Muzzall appeared at the time on a radio show discussing her concerns about Marier's appointment as a priest at parishes with a combined parochial school at Uniontown and Colton. Marier remains priest in good standing at the parishes.

Though the bishop never named Muzzall by name in his statement to reporters, he discounted her recollections and questioned the motives of others who were passing tips to reporters. Muzzall then hired Bollinger and pursued the defamation claim and other accusations.

This week's court filing coincided with the annual meeting of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, which Skylstad oversees as president.

The suit does not name the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which is trying to settle more than 125 claims of clergy sex abuse in its ongoing bankruptcy case.


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