Former Monroe Priest Released from Priesthood at Own Request after Abuse Allegation

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times
February 19, 2010

The Vatican has granted the request of a former Monroe priest to leave the priesthood after he was accused in 2008 of sexually abusing a minor in the late-1960s.

Michael C. OBrien, former pastor of St. Mary of the Valley Church in Monroe, was placed on administrative leave after that allegation came forward. He resigned as pastor in 2009 "so the parish community could move forward," Seattle Roman Catholic Archbishop Alex Brunett said in a January letter to St. Mary of the Valley parishioners.

During the archdiocese's investigation and deliberation of the case, it became clear that its review board and OBrien had "different interpretations of his actions," with OBrien consistently maintaining his innocence, Brunett said in the letter.

But in time, OBrien came to realize that "he had engaged in behaviors that were not consistent with his priestly vocation," the archbishop's letter said. "Accordingly, he decided to petition the Holy Father for dismissal from the clerical state."

The voluntary laicization means OBrien can no longer be called "father," present himself as a priest or preside at Mass.

The allegation brought forward in 2008 was the second against OBrien, who had been placed on leave in 2004 while an archdiocesan board reviewed a different allegation. In that instance, the review board looked into an old 1993 allegation accusing the priest of abusing a teenage boy during a canoe trip. The review board found the allegation to be not credible, and OBrien who denied the accusation was returned to active ministry.

The Vatican had also made another decision this year about a locally accused priest.

Earlier this month, Brunett informed parishioners at St. Monica Church on Mercer Island that their former pastor, the Rev. Dennis Kemp, had been barred from ministry by the Vatican.

The decisions were announced in parishes and in letters to parishioners, but not to the general public a practice that a victims' advocacy group says is secretive and inadequate.

Two members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a news conference outside the Seattle Archdiocese late Friday morning, urging church officials to, among other things, post the names and photos of credibly accused priests

In the past, the archdiocese had released to the news media decisions by the Vatican about accused priests, but did not do so in these two cases.

Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that's because there was no new information to release about the cases that the archdiocese hadn't already provided.

"I think we were more than completely forthcoming," he said.

He said the Vatican actions were publicized to the parishes the people directly affected by the decisions so that parishioners would understand that the decisions were permanent.

By that point, he said, there was no new information in the cases that would have had any effect on the general public.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or


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