Man Alleges He Was Abused by Roslyn Priest in 1960s

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
July 3, 2013

A man who alleges he was abused as an altar boy by a priest in Roslyn has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic dioceses of Yakima and Spokane.

The lawsuit filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Tuesday contends that beginning in 1961, the Rev. Joseph Sondergeld sexually abused the victim at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Roslyn.

The man, who is in his early 60s and identified as R.P. in the filing, says he was 9 years old when the abuse began. He says Sondergeld, now deceased, used his position within the church to groom him for abuse and molest him on church property.

Monsignor Robert Siler, chief of staff of the Yakima Diocese, said the man didn’t contact the diocese about the alleged abuse. “It’s news to me. Our attorneys are looking into it,” he said.

R.P. is suing both dioceses because Sondergeld served in several cities in the Spokane Diocese, including Oroville, Okanogan, Pomeroy, Uniontown and Prosser (now part of the Yakima Diocese) before transferring to Immaculate Conception and St. John’s Cathedral in Cle Elum in the 1950s. Siler said the priest served there until 1967, when he retired to Yakima. Sondergeld died in 1969 when he was 83.

The lawsuit alleges that the Spokane Diocese knew Sondergeld had abused children in the past, failed to report him to the authorities and instead transferred him to the Yakima Diocese.

R.P.’s attorney, James Rogers of Seattle, issued a statement, saying, “Our client was one of many boys who were molested by Sondergeld. Instead of removing him from the priesthood, the Dioceses sent him to counseling before transferring him to a new parish where he was allowed to have direct and unsupervised contact with children.”

The Yakima and Spokane dioceses were named in a previous lawsuit against Sondergeld. In 2003, Michael Ross of Spokane sued, alleging he had been molested by the priest in the 1960s in Yakima. The Yakima Diocese later settled the case for $50,000; the Spokane case became part of that diocese’s bankruptcy settlement, Siler said.

Siler noted that, to the best of his knowledge, that has been the only other lawsuit against the Yakima Diocese that names Sondergeld.

About the current case, Siler said, “We’re certainly sorry for any abuse he (R.P.) had suffered. We’ll do our best to cooperate with the legal process.”



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