Spokane Abuse Suit Names Priest

Associated Press, carried in The News Tribune [Spokane WA]
Downloaded May 10, 2003

Another lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a priest decades ago has been filed against the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

Mike Shea, a retired Spokane stockbroker, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the diocese and the Rev. Reinard Beaver, a priest removed from public ministry in 1988 and now living in Steilacoom.

Shea, 62, alleges he was abused by the priest when he was 15 years old. Shea said he blocked out the painful memories for years, but they resurfaced after counseling sessions last year.

The lawsuit filed in Spokane County Superior Court is the fourth in the past year against the Diocese of Spokane. It asserts the diocese was aware of Beaver's conduct but allowed him to continue his ministry.

Shea alleges he was abused by Beaver, an assistant pastor at St. Augustine Church from 1956 to 1960, during a 1956 trip to Seattle.

According to the lawsuit, Shea "has been physically and psychologically damaged and continues to be damaged ... (and) experience mental anguish, humiliation and emotional and physical distress."

Throughout his life, he has had problems with alcohol and has married and divorced three times.

Beaver, who turns 74 this month, was one of six priests named by Bishop William Skylstad last October who sexually abused minors.

In a brief interview from his home in Steilacoom, Beaver said he remembered knowing Shea in 1956, but declined to respond to the allegations.

"1956 was a long time ago," he said. "My memory is anemic. I remember him but I have not seen him since I left Spokane. ...

"It's an old, old story. The thing that doesn't work well for either one of us is that all the witnesses are dead."

After working at St. Augustine, Beaver spent six months at St. Ann in Spokane, then served for three years in the U.S. Army Chaplains' Corps.

After retiring around 1984, Beaver moved to Western Washington, where he was permitted to celebrate Mass and other sacraments until 1988, said Dennis O'Leary, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle. He was not assigned to a parish.

In 1988, then-Spokane Bishop Lawrence Welsh learned of accusations against Beaver in Western Washington and removed him from ministry, said a statement from the Rev. Steve Dublinski, vicar general for the Spokane diocese.

The Seattle archdiocese revoked Beaver's authorization to celebrate Catholic sacraments in 1988 after it received complaints about him, O'Leary said. He said he didn't know the nature of the complaints, and was checking with the archdiocese's attorney. Although Beaver was removed from active ministry in 1988, he remains a priest.

Since 1988, the archdiocese has received at least one complaint about Beaver performing non-denominational services, over which the archdiocese has no authority, O'Leary said.

Skylstad has rejected several appeals from Beaver to be reinstated, Dublinski said.

Shea said he has tried to talk to the bishop and others in the diocese about what happened, but claimed he has received little support.

In the statement, Dublinski said Skylstad expressed his regrets and apologized for what happened to Shea. He also said the diocese has offered counseling on several occasions, but Shea declined.

Shea joined the local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, saying he wants the church to be held accountable.

"The Catholic Church is made up of wonderful people and I'm not after them," he said. "I'm after the hierarchy, the people who protected the pedophiles."

Staff writer Steve Maynard contributed to this report.


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