Spokane Diocese Sued over Alleged Pornography Incident

Associated Press, carried in Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Spokane WA]
November 14, 2006

Spokane, Wash. -- A former housekeeper who alleges she found child pornography in a priest's room 10 years ago has sued the Catholic Diocese of Spokane and the priest.

In the lawsuit filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Monday, Katherine Muzzall alleges she was defamed by Bishop William Skylstad two years ago in a news release defending the Rev. Edward Marier.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Diocesan attorney Greg Arpin called the lawsuit frivolous.

"It's an abuse of the legal system, and we're going to fight it," he said. "The sad part is what this does to a person's life."

Marier is pastor of a parish that serves the farming communities of Colton and Uniontown near Pullman.

The defamation claim stems from a 2004 release Skylstad issued after Muzzall appeared on a Spokane talk radio show to discuss her concerns about the priest. Skylstad's news release didn't refer to Muzzall by name.

Attorney Beth Bollinger said the lawsuit was filed because the diocese did not respond to an administrative claim. It is not tied to the diocese bankruptcy case.

Muzzall was a rectory housekeeper in 1996 at Sacred Heart Parish in Wilbur, 65 miles west of Spokane, where Marier was assigned.

She alleges that while changing bed linens, she found homosexual pornography in the sheets.

Muzzall said she told Skylstad about the materials.

Marier was removed from Wilbur and sent to an inpatient clinic in the Midwest. When the treatment was completed, Marier returned to Eastern Washington, the diocese said.

In an October 2004 press release, Skylstad reiterated his support for Marier. "I also personally condemn in no uncertain terms the unchristian actions of slander directed toward Fr. Marier and the Diocese," the bishop wrote.

Arpin said officials reported Muzzall's complaint to Spokane police and the Lincoln County sheriff in 2004. The sheriff declined to look into a matter because the allegations were eight years old, there was no evidence, and Marier had moved to a different town, the attorney said.

The diocese also hired a private investigator, who said the allegations of child pornography were unfounded, Arpin said.


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