3 Brothers Sue Spokane Diocese for Sex Abuse

The Associated Press, carried in The News Tribune [Spokane WA]
Downloaded May 20, 2003

SPOKANE - Three brothers who say they were sexually abused as children decades ago have become the latest to sue the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court, the plaintiffs, identified only by their initials, allege they were molested when they were between the ages of 8 and 13.

The lawsuit names the Spokane Diocese and Bernard "Benno" Oosterman, an ex-priest who worked in the diocese for more than two decades. It accuses Oosterman of abusing the boys between 1968 and 1975.

It is the fifth complaint filed in the past nine months against the Diocese of Spokane.

According to the Spokane Diocese, Oosterman worked at Sacred Heart Church in Wellpinit until 1971 and then served as pastor of both Sacred Heart in Wilbur and St. Benedict in Coulee Dam until 1975.

Oosterman, now 75 and a resident of Center Point, Texas, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Oosterman was the subject of a previous lawsuit claiming sexual abuse, which was settled by the diocese in 1993. In October, Bishop William Skylstad named him as one of seven priests who had admitted sexually abusing minors.

The lawsuit contends Oosterman took advantage of his position of authority to molest the boys at various locations, including King County.

The brothers lived in North Seattle, but their parents allowed them to travel with Oosterman, a friend of the family, to Wellpinit and Wilbur in Central Washington.

The lawsuit contends the diocese failed to report Oosterman to law enforcement authorities, although it knew of the abuse.

Oosterman worked at a number of Eastern Washington parishes, including St. Francis Xavier in Spokane, Holy Family in Clarkston and St. Patrick's in Pasco. In 1978, he was released to the Archdiocese of Anchorage. He resigned in 1980, according to Spokane Diocese records.

In 1993, the diocese settled a lawsuit brought against it by two victims of Oosterman, including one whose family lived near Wellpinit.


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