Suit Alleges Molestation by Priest Man Says He Was Sexually Abused by Late Father Knecht in Chewelah

Associated Press, carried in Spokesman Review [Spokane]
April 6, 2004

A Seattle attorney has filed a lawsuit against the Spokane Catholic Diocese on behalf of a man who alleges he was sexually abused by a priest.

The plaintiff, identified in court records only as "J.D.," alleges he was abused by the late Father Joseph Knecht at the now-defunct St. Mary's Catholic Church and School in Chewelah.

The unidentified plaintiff attended the school from 1950 to 1955. The lawsuit filed last week alleges he was abused by Knecht repeatedly over a period of approximately three years. It further alleges that Knecht sexually abused the boy at least once a month. He often told the boy he loved him, kissed and fondled him, the lawsuit claims.

In December, the diocese publicly released Knecht's name as someone who was credibly accused of sex acts against a boy.

"Bishop William Skylstad has repeatedly, respectfully called for victims of clerical abuse to come forward. This is another example of a victim responding to that request," said Father Steve Dublinski in a written statement.

"As in all such cases, Bishop Skylstad hopes for healing to begin and hopes for resolution through negotiation that is fair to those wounded and within the means of the church to compensate," wrote Dublinski, the diocese's Vicar General.

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, Wash., 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.

The lawsuit, filed by Seattle attorney Stephen Crane, said church officials were negligent in the way they handled priests.

"The defendant knew or should have known that Knecht continued to be a dangerous child molester and that he was otherwise unfit to work with or around children at St. Mary's Church," the lawsuit alleges.

The abuse and assault the boy was subjected to resulted in a life filled with inadequacies causing him to lose self-esteem that continues today, the lawsuit alleges.

As a sophomore in high school, the plaintiff began drinking and has suffered from alcoholism for most of his life, the lawsuit states.

This sidebar appeared with the story: IN SEATTLE Case settled SEATTLE - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle announced Monday it has settled a case with a man who said he was abused decades ago by the Rev. James McGreal, a former pastor at several churches in the area.

McGreal's accuser, identified in court papers only by his initials, M.W., was one of 16 men who alleged they were sexually abused by McGreal, who retired from the clergy in 1988.

Last fall, the archdiocese agreed to pay $7.87 million to 15 of those victims. But M.W. wanted his case heard in court, his attorney, Michael Pfau, said. The case was set for trial this week in King County Superior Court.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Ordained in 1948, McGreal served in several parishes and two hospitals in the Seattle area. He resigned in 1988 after sexualabuse allegations became public. He has never been charged with a crime.

McGreal, now in his late 70s, lives in a treatment center for priests in Missouri. He initially was sent to a treatment center in California. His access to the public is restricted. And although he is still a priest, he cannot wear his collar or robes and cannot administer sacraments.

The lawsuits filed by McGreal's 16 accusers alleged he abused the plaintiffs when they served as altar boys in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s.


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