Vatican Defrocks Priest in Abuse Case
By Jessica Blanchard
February 21, 2006
The Vatican has defrocked a local priest accused of sexually abusing an altar boy who later committed suicide, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced Monday.
Gerald Moffat, 75, most recently a pastor at St. Hubert Parish in Langley on Whidbey Island, had been on administrative leave since July 2002, when molestation allegations against him first surfaced.
Moffat continues to deny the accusations, according to his attorney Steven Moen, who represented Moffat in two lawsuits involving accusations of sex abuse.
The archdiocese's announcement comes little more than three years after one of Moffat's alleged victims, Jeff Alfieri, committed suicide in the parking lot of Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland.
Alfieri, 43, sued in 2002, contending that Moffat had repeatedly sexually abused him while he had been an altar boy at the church in the early 1970s.
Moffat considered Alfieri's death "very unfortunate," Moen said, but he has always maintained he is innocent.
The archdiocese settled the Alfieri case for $600,000 in June 2005, though his parents said at the time that the monetary award did little to assuage their grief or reassure them that Moffat would be held accountable.
That settlement was separate from Monday's action.
The archdiocese formed a panel of lawyers, church officials and therapists in 2003 to review cases against priests such as Moffat and recommend whether they should be defrocked or allowed to return to the ministry.
In Moffat's case, the archdiocese and the review board recommended he be defrocked and forwarded their findings to the Vatican for final action, archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said.
The Vatican concurred, and in a written statement released Monday, Archbishop Alex Brunett said the decision is final.
"I am deeply sorry for harm to any victim of clergy child sexual abuse," he said. "My hope is that this decision will bring resolution, healing and closure to all involved."
In addition to being stripped of his title, Moffat is also prohibited from wearing clerical clothes or publicly presenting himself as a priest.
Moffat has been retired for several years, Moen said, so the likelihood of his returning to the active priesthood was slim. In addition to Kirkland and Langley, Moffat also served at St. James Cathedral in Seattle and Our Lady of Sorrows in Snoqualmie.
As of this month, the archdiocese has settled more than 200 sexual-abuse cases and paid out more than $20 million, Magnoni said Monday. That count does not include abuse cases resolved without litigation, he said.
P-I reporter Jessica Blanchard can be reached at 206-448-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.