New Lawsuits Allege Chewelah Priests Abused Boys
January 21, 2004
Two Roman Catholic priests allegedly molested a dozen students at private St. Mary's school in the town of Chewelah in the 1940s and 1950s, two new lawsuits say.
One of the victims, retired educator Joe Newbury, said Wednesday he decided to make his name public as a way to encourage other victims to come forward.
Newbury alleges he was abused for two years in the 1950s by the late Rev. Joseph Knecht.
"I'm sure there are many others out there he abused who were much older than I am, and much more reluctant to come forward," Newbury, 63, said in a telephone interview from Chewelah, a small town about 60 miles north of Spokane. "We lived in a different era. A priest was walking on water," Newbury said. "You did not question a priest."
The two lawsuits were filed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court by attorney Tim Kosnoff of Bellevue, who has filed several cases against the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. They do not seek specific damages.
The Spokane Diocese has been expecting additional lawsuits after Bishop William Skylstad, in a Dec. 26 letter to parishioners, urged victims to come forward, said Father Steve Dublinski, vicar general of the diocese.
"He believes strongly that for all victims a healing process can only begin by confronting these tragedies in one's past," Dublinski said.
The lawsuits represent 12 men who were students at the now-closed St. Mary's school. They contend they were molested by Knecht or the Rev. James O'Malley, who retired in 1984 and moved to Ireland. Most of the plaintiffs were identified by initials.
Last month, the diocese released Knecht's name as someone who was credibly accused of sex abuse acts against a boy. It released O'Malley's name in 2002.
Newbury, a retired school principal, alleges that a Catholic nun would remove him from a junior high class twice a week and send him to Knecht's living quarters.
Knecht would fondle Newbury's genitals, kissing and hugging him in 30-minute sessions, the lawsuit said. Newbury said he was abused for two years, but told no one.
The lawsuit against O'Malley, 84, was filed by men who allege they were abused by him in the 1940s and '50s.
Knecht was a priest in the Spokane Diocese from 1932 to 1956. He served at St. Augustine in Spokane from October 1932 to November 1933; in Waterville, from November 1933 to September 1937; and in Chewelah from 1937 until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1956, at age 56, records say.
"I was probably the last one he abused," Newbury said.
Knecht said he had to touch the boys to see if they were "keeping themselves clean" and whether their genitals were "developing properly," according to the lawsuit.
Two victims have talked to him in recent days, including one who refused to disclose his name, Newbury said.
"There's some sort of relief in no longer having to keep it buried in the back of your mind," Newbury said. "My goal is just that maybe some more people will come forward."
He said he never heard anyone talk about sexual abuse while he was a student at St. Mary's.
"It was never discussed," he said.
Newbury was a teacher in Auburn, and at schools in Germany and Turkey during his career before he retired.
In the case of O'Malley, the Spokane Diocese removed him from Chewelah after allegations of abuse were brought to the attention of officials in January 1962. According to diocesan records, O'Malley was assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Spokane in September the same year. He worked at Holy Rosary in Rosalia until 1969; at St. John Vianney until 1980, followed by nine years of service at St. Paschal, both in the Spokane Valley.
No known complaints were made against O'Malley to church officials after his treatment in 1962, Dublinski said.
"O'Malley currently resides in the comfortable retirement in an idyllic Irish village of Kilsallagh, Westport, County Mayo on scenic waterview property located at the foot of the Croagh Patrick, a Catholic religious shrine and the second highest mountain in Ireland," according to the lawsuit.
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