Seattle Archdiocese Removed As Defendant in Sex-Abuse Case

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times [Seattle WA]
February 15, 2005

A King County Superior Court judge has removed the Seattle Archdiocese as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an Idaho man who accused now-defrocked priest John Cornelius of molesting him years ago.

The lawsuit, filed last year by Timothy McKenna of Idaho Falls, said Cornelius molested him when Cornelius was a student at Mount Angel Seminary near Portland, then later when he was a priest-in-training at St. Thomas seminary in Kenmore, and later as a priest with the Seattle Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

On Friday, Judge Paris Kallas said the Seattle Archdiocese and the Sulpicians, the Catholic religious order that ran St. Thomas seminary, should not be part of McKenna's suit.

In the suit, McKenna accused Cornelius of abusing him from about 1969 to 1975, when McKenna was about 10 to 16.

Cornelius became a friend of the family's after befriending McKenna's brother, who attended Mount Angel Seminary with Cornelius.

The abuse happened mainly in the McKenna family home in Idaho, said Brad Moore, McKenna's attorney.

Cornelius was defrocked late last year for a long string of sexual-molestation cases involving boys.

Moore said the judge decided the Seattle Archdiocese and the Sulpicians shouldn't be part of the suit because McKenna was not in the protective custody of the church at the times of the abuse, and, given that Cornelius was a family friend, the abuse would have happened whether the church made Cornelius a priest or not.

The abuse of McKenna would have stopped "if the Seattle Archdiocese said this guy is no longer eligible to be a priest and doesn't have the power of the church behind him," said Moore, who contends the church overlooked a number of red flags throughout the years.

Moore said he planned to appeal Friday's decision. He and McKenna are still deciding whether to proceed with the suit, with Cornelius as the sole defendant.

Cornelius did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Other defendants in the case, including the Portland and Boise dioceses, were dropped previously for various reasons, including states' different statutes of limitations regarding when civil suits can be filed.

McKenna, who plans to speak at a news conference this afternoon outside the headquarters of the Seattle Archdiocese, said, "When I received word from my legal team, I felt like I had just been abused and kicked in the gut by the church officials again. ... As a result of the church officials' latest tactics, this court action will drag on for many more years as it goes through the appeals process. This is an absolute shame."

Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said, "We regret any harm to Mr. McKenna or any victim of clergy abuse. ... We take our responsibility to reach out to victims pastorally very seriously. "

But, he added, "Once they chose the courts as their venue, we availed ourselves of all the rights that we have as a defendant in a court case. Clearly, the judge agreed with our argument, given the fact that this abuse had occurred over a period of many years and not in the Archdiocese of Seattle."


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