Lawsuit against Skylstad, Palouse Priest Dismissed

By Bill Morlin
Spokesman-Review (Washington)
March 31, 2007

Mar. 31--A defamation lawsuit against Bishop William Skylstad of the Spokane Catholic Diocese and a priest serving small communities near Pullman was dismissed Friday by Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor.

The suit was filed last November by Katherine Muzzall, who accused the bishop of defaming her two years ago in a news release that defended priest Edward Marier.

Muzzall had worked as a housekeeper when Marier was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Wilbur, Wash., in 1996. She claimed she and her mother found homosexual material, including images of teenage boys being sexually exploited by men, while cleaning the priest's bedroom. Muzzall said she reported the discovery to Skylstad.

The bishop recalled taking the call from Muzzall but said she never described the material as child pornography. Marier was removed from Wilbur and underwent treatment at a clinic in the Midwest before returning to Eastern Washington.

In 1999, police arrested Marier on suspicion of lewd conduct after he was spotted by officers in an adult bookstore on East Sprague.

In an October 2004 statement, Skylstad said Marier's personal issues were similar to those of an alcoholic and defended his service to parishes in Colton-Uniontown, south of Pullman.

"I also personally condemn in no uncertain terms the un-Christian actions of slander directed toward Fr. Marier and the Diocese," Skylstad said in his statement given to the media. That triggered Muzzall's defamation suit.

Ruling from the bench on Friday, the judge granted a summary judgment motion brought by attorneys Gerald Kobluk and Gregory Arpin, who represented the bishop and Marier.

Kobluk argued that the bishop's statement didn't identify Muzzall by name and she, therefore, could not establish the elements needed for a claim for defamation, outrage, and negligent infliction of emotion distress.

Muzzall's attorney, Beth Bollinger, couldn't be reached for comment.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.