Names of Yakima Valley clergy accused of sexual abuse may go online

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald
January 24, 2016

The Catholic Diocese of Yakima may soon consider listing names of clergy on its website who have had credible claims of sexual abuse leveled against them.

Several years ago, the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board discussed the possibility of publishing names on the website and decided against it.

But the chairman, Yakima attorney Russell Mazzola, said the topic “probably will come up again” at the board’s next meeting in March. The seven-member group, which meets quarterly, investigates any allegations of sexual misconduct in the local Catholic church.

The subject has been in the news recently because the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle published a list of clergy and other church personnel accused of sexually abusing children on its website Jan. 15.

The 77 names were those who either admitted abuse, had credible claims made against them or claims established to be true, the Seattle Archdiocese said.

If the Yakima board takes up the issue again, Mazzola said it will be a weighing process for him in deciding how to proceed.

He pointed out that the names of Yakima clerics who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors have previously appeared in the Yakima Herald-Repulic.

“My recollection is that the name of every priest determined to have a valid complaint against him has already, in fact, been published in the newspaper.”

Since 2003, the Herald-Republic has published the names of 16 priests and church personnel whom the diocese determined had credible allegations of abuse of minors made against them.

The Seattle list contained three names of priests who were associated with both Seattle and Yakima.

One name has not appeared in this newspaper before: Thomas Pitsch. He served at St. Paul Cathedral in 1941 and again from 1943-50.

Monsignor Robert Siler, chancellor of the diocese, noted that Pitsch, who is deceased, had not previously been mentioned here, nor have any allegations been brought against him locally. Siler theorized that Pitsch wasn’t included in Yakima records because he left here before Yakima became its own diocese in 1951.

On the Seattle Archdiocese website, Richard Scully was listed as laicized, or defrocked. Previously, in Yakima records, he was listed as retired, but after leaving Yakima, he moved to Texas and a diocese there laicized him. He has been accused of abusing children here in the 1970s.

The third local name on the Seattle website was Dale Calhoun; also accused of abuse in the 1970s, he was permanently barred from ministry.

Siler agreed with Mazzola that the lay advisory board might revisit the subject of listing names at its next meeting. He noted, however, that the Yakima Diocese has put a major effort into its Safe Environment Program, which conducts trainings and background checks for religious personnel and provides education to children to thwart the prospect of abuse.

Both Siler and Mazzola emphasized that the diocese operates a hot line for victims to report abuse. That number is 888-276-4490.

“Our first assumption is always that people may be hurting,” Siler said, explaining that the diocese takes all reports seriously.

The Yakima Diocese has paid out about $2 million in settlements to people who alleged they were abused, Siler said. Most was covered by insurance.

There are four claims against the Yakima Diocese still pending; all name Monsignor Joseph Sondergeld, who died in 1969.

The diocese began settling claims in the mid-1980s for allegations of abuse that mostly date from the 1960s to early 1980s.




Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.