Suit Claims Diocese Knew Priest Was Pedophile Ninth Suit since September Is First to Name Retired Rev. James O'Malley

By Virginia de Leon
Spokesman Review [Spokane WA]
July 10, 2003

Sex abuse lawsuits continue to rack up against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

The ninth complaint since September was filed Wednesday by a Spokane man who says he was molested by James O'Malley, a priest who retired in 1989. The lawsuits represent 32 plaintiffs - 29 alleged victims, including one who committed suicide last year, and three spouses.

Although Tuesday's lawsuit - filed by "T.C." - is the first one against O'Malley, four other alleged victims say he abused at least 15 boys in parishes throughout Eastern Washington.

"The (diocese) knew about O'Malley," said Rick Frizzell, of Chewelah, one alleged O'Malley victim who is contemplating a suit against the diocese. "He was allowed to molest kids for more than 30 years. He had his hands down their pants all the time."

O'Malley was one of six priests who were identified by Bishop William Skylstad last fall as alleged abusers.

O'Malley now lives in Ireland and will turn 84 later this month.

According to the lawsuit, T.C. was abused as a boy between 1981 and 1982 at St. Paschal Church in Spokane Valley.

Although the diocese was aware of O'Malley's pedophilia, officials failed to warn parents, protect children or report the priest to law enforcement, the lawsuit claims.

Ordained in June of 1946, O'Malley allegedly abused a number of boys since the late 1950s.

As the parish priest and school principal at St. Mary of the Rosary in Chewelah, O'Malley took advantage of altar boys and male students by grooming them and threatening them to engage in various sexual acts with him, the lawsuit says. Those incidents reportedly occurred in the rectory, school, furnace room, janitor's room, church and sacristy.

Frizzell, now 55 and a retired Washington state trooper, says he was one of those boys.

He was in the fifth or sixth grade at St. Mary of the Rosary when the priest started asking him if he masturbated or had impure thoughts. The conduct then moved to fondling, said Frizzell, who was an altar boy.

"He was so blatant about it," he said, but the boys never spoke about the alleged crimes committed against them. "We were raised in that Catholic culture where the priest can do no wrong."

In 1962, when Frizzell was 14 and in the ninth grade, he told his mother about O'Malley's alleged actions. Horrified, she drove her son to Spokane to meet with then-Bishop Bernard Topel. The next day, the priest was sent away from Chewelah, Frizzell recalled.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, the diocese's vicar general in charge of the sex abuse issue, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to diocesan records, O'Malley left Chewelah in January 1962 but didn't come to Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral until September of that year. He stayed there until November 1965. He then worked at Holy Rosary in Rosalia until 1969. He was at St. John Vianney until 1980, followed by nine years of service at St. Paschal - both parishes with grade schools.

About a dozen people representing the local Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and the Spokane chapter of Voice of the Faithful flocked to the Spokane County Courthouse Wednesday when the lawsuit was filed. They came to support T.C., they said.

"It's extremely important for victims to file lawsuits," said Molly Harding, co-founder of the Survivors Network. "It puts the accountability on the church... Our most powerful tool is the light of truth."


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