Settlements don’t absolve Catholic sex abuse

The Olympian
March 28, 2016

Accounting for the horrific sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and nuns over the last half-century continues in the Archdiocese of Seattle. The legal settlement last week of eight abuse claims was the latest installment of a slowly unfolding story that the church could expedite with complete disclosure of files it holds on offenders.

The archdiocese in January released a public list of 77 clergy and others accused of sexual assault against children. Included were about 25 who had served in Catholic Church posts in Thurston and Pierce counties, most recently in 2003.

The archdiocese said in a January news release that the clergy and church staff named in the list, who lived or served in Western Washington since 1923, were implicated in allegations of sexual abuse of children that were either “admitted, established or determined to be credible.’’

Those welcome disclosures were tempered by a statement that the list of locations — which included Saint Martin’s Abbey, school and college in Lacey, as well as Saint Michael’s Church in Olympia — did not necessarily mean that abuse had occurred at all of the sites.

Some implicated priests, nuns, brothers and sisters are now dead or left the ministry long ago, and just five of the 77 were held to account criminally, according to The Seattle Times. Among those on the accused list were James McGreal, listed as deceased, who served at Saint Michael’s from 1966 to 1971; Theodore Marmo, who served there 1979-85; and Michael Hays, who served there 1980-81.

The archdiocese could clearly do more than pay out, as it did last week, when it agreed to a $9.1 million settlement to end claims by eight women who had been sexually abused as children four decades ago in Skagit and Whatcom counties. That outlay is on top of the $74 million that the Seattle Archdiocese paid out since the late 1980s to settle about 392 civil claims of child sexual abuse of minors, according to the Times.

The settlement came after a damning letter surfaced. The letter, written in 1962 by psychiatrist Albert M. Hurley to Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connolly, said that Michael Cody, a priest and pedophile, should “be removed from parish work as soon as possible,” according to the newspaper.

That wasn’t the only letter in the Cody case, and the newspaper said supervising priests and an auxiliary bishop also had warned of Cody’s sickness and risk to children.

The advice was ignored, and Cody was moved from parish to parish. Cody quit serving as a priest in 1979 and was defrocked in 2005, according to news reports. He died last year.

Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said in January the list was compiled by a former FBI agent hired as a consultant. Current Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain apologized for the violations of a “sacred trust.”

But the list was released more than a decade after a church review panel that examined clergy sex-abuse cases had recommended publication of the names of those clergy facing credible allegations.

Prominent Catholics including former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, who served on that panel, have called for the additional release of files kept secret by the church on priests, nuns and officials implicated in abuse.

This would mark a significant step toward closing these historic wounds for which a complicit church shares the deepest guilt. Failing to do so leaves the unshakeable impression that the church, however serious it’s been about accounting for misdeeds, has not done all it could to fix a terrible wrong.

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