Seattle Archdiocese List Identifies Sex Offenders
By Patty Hastings
January 15, 2016
The Archdiocese of Seattle released a list of Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children who served or lived in Western Washington, including 11 priests who had been assigned to Clark County parishes at one point.
The Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain apologized for the actions of those who abused children. The list’s publication was intended to “further transparency and accountability, and to continue to encourage victims of sexual abuse by clergy to come forward.”
The list consists of 77 clergy and religious brothers and sisters who served or lived in Western Washington between 1923 and 2008.
“Our work in this area will not be complete until all those who have been harmed have received assistance in healing, and until the evil of child sexual abuse has been eradicated from society,” Sartain said.
The Seattle Archdiocese reviewed cases where sexual abuse was “admitted, established or determined to be credible.” Most of the cases with local ties were documented by media in Western Washington.
• Michael C. OBrien was accused in 2008 of sexually abusing a minor while serving at Our Lady of Lourdes in Vancouver between 1965 and 1970, according to The Seattle Times. In 2004, he was placed on administrative leave while an archdiocesan board reviewed a 1993 allegation accusing the priest of abusing a teenage boy during a canoe trip. The alleged abuse occurred during his 20-year tenure at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Brush Prairie, where he served from 1979 to 1999. OBrien has been laicized from the church, meaning he’s lost his clergy status. Laicized priests can’t wear clerical dress, perform ceremonies or administer the sacraments.
• James Gandrau was barred from ministry in 2005 following allegations of child sexual abuse, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In 1991, he was assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vancouver. He died in 2012.
• James Mitchell, ordained by the Sorocco Diocese in Colombia, served at St. John from 1985 to 1986. He brought two teenagers from Colombia to the parish, promising them U.S. citizenship via adoption and then subjected them to years of abuse, according to Columbian archives. The Archdiocese of Seattle did not know his status with the Sorocco Diocese.
• Two men accused David Linehan of sexual abuse, according to Columbian archives. Linehan served at Our Lady of Lourdes from 1975 to 1977. The Seattle Archdiocese said he was given permanent prayer and penance. Other news reports say he was permanently removed from exercising priestly ministry.
• Barry Ashwell served at St. Joseph from 1975 to 1976. A former alter boy claimed he was abused by Ashwell, but the lawsuit was later thrown out of court, according to Columbian archives. Ashwell was laicized by the Seattle Archdiocese.
• David Jaeger admitted to inappropriately touching children at youth camps in the ’70s, The Seattle Times reported. Jaeger, who served at St. Joseph from 1969 to 1972, was voluntarily laicized. He died in 2014.
• John Marsh, who served at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Camas from 1970 to 1971, was removed from ministry in 1988 after sexual abuse allegations emerged against him, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A complaint alleged that he invited alter boys to spend the night at the rectory. He is deceased.
• James McGreal, who served at St. James the Greater Catholic Church from 1950 to 1954, was considered one of the most serious offenders among priests in the Seattle Archdiocese. McGreal admitted to abusing hundreds of victims, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Lawsuits claimed the abuse happened in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. The Seattle Archdiocese settled several multi-million dollar lawsuits against McGreal. He died in 2011.
• Richard Stohr served at St. John between 1976 and 1979. He is deceased.
• Thomas Pitsch was assigned to St. Philip Catholic Church in Woodland from 1950 to 1952 and St. Joseph’s from 1952 to 1964. He is deceased.
• In the 1920s, James Toner served at Vancouver Missions, which historian Pat Jollotta said may have been St. John’s when it was known as a mission of St. James. Toner lived at Blanchet Home from 1923 until 1925.
It took nearly two years for the Archdiocesan Review Board to compile the list with help from consultants and professionals who advise the archbishop on child sex abuse. Each priest’s known assignments or residences were included in the list, but it doesn’t mean there were allegations of abuse at each place.
“I express my deepest apologies for the actions of those who were in positions of trust and who violated that sacred trust by abusing the vulnerable in their care,” Sartain said in his letter.
Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; twitter.com/pattyhastings; firstname.lastname@example.org