Appeals Court Says Woman Can Sue Archdiocese over Alleged Sexual Abuse

By Scott Sunde
The Seattlepi
June 6, 2011

A woman who was allegedly sexual abused as a 5-year-old on her way to a picnic arranged by the family priest can sue the Seattle archdiocese, a state appeals court ruled Monday.

The question before the appeals court was whether the lawsuit should go forward even though the alleged abuser is an unidentfied man but not the priest.

A King County Superior Court judge said the lawsuit couldn't go forward and dismissed it.

But the appeals court gave the lawsuit new life.

The woman, identfied only as "M.H." as well as her mother and brothers lived near St. James Cathedral in the early 1960s and attended church there. Associate pastor at St. James was Father Edmund Boyle.

The appeals court described him as having a "lengthy and extensive history of sexual misconduct."

And the court quoted a memo to the archbishop in the 1990s that said:

"I have just completed a review of Father Boyle's secret file . . . . It is clear that Father Boyle has an extensive history of alcoholism, and enmeshed with this, an equally extensive history of sexual misconduct, both homosexual and heterosexual. The homosexual acting out has been with adolescents. The heterosexual behavior has been with both adolescents and adults."

Boyle developed a close relationship with M.H. and her family and assumed a supervisory role over the children, the appeals court said.

He arranged to have a picnic with them and invited two men and a woman to come along.

He introduced the adults to 5-year-old M.H.'s mother. One of the men asked to drive the girl to the picnic.

"Father Boyle assured M.H.'s mother 'that this would be a good idea.' Based on Father Boyle's assurances, M.H.'s mother allowed the man to drive M.H. to the picnic., and her mother agreed," the appeals court said.

Before going to the picnic, the man took the girl to an apartment and sexually abused her.

"After the picnic was over, M.H. told her mother that the man had sexually abused her. M.H.'s mother told her to tell Father Boyle what happened. When M.H. told Father Boyle that the man sexually abused her, Father Boyle comforted M.H. bu tinstructed her to never tell anyone else about what the man did to her. Father Boyle never reported the sexual abuse of M.H. to the authorities."

M.H. sued the archdiocese two years ago.

The Superior Court judge dismissed the case after the archdiocese argued that it didn't have a duty for the man who allegedly molested the girl.

But the appeals court ruled that "despite a known history of sexual misconduct with children, the archdiocese assigned Father Boyle as an associate pastor at Saint James Cathedral."

"The alleged facts also show that Father Boyle knew the unidentified man planned to sexually abuse M.H. and was instrumental in arranging the opportunity for the man to do so. Father Boyle planned the picnic with M.H.'s mother and her children. Father Boyle invited the unidentified man to go to the picnic with the family, brought the man to M.H.'s home, and introduced the man to M.H.'s mother and 5-year-old M.H. When the man asked if he could drive M.H. to the picnic, Father Boyle vouched for the man and told M.H.'s mother that she should allow M.H. to drive with the man to the picnic. When M.H. told Father Boyle that the man had sexually molested her, Father Boyle instructed her not to tell anyone and never reported the abuse to the authorities."

Scott Sunde can be reached at 206-448-8331 or


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