Diocese Names Barred Priests
Local, Vatican Review | Permanent Step Recommended against 3 after Abuse Allegations

By Janet I. Tu
The Seattle Times
August 22, 2004

The Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese yesterday released the names of three priests the Revs. James McGreal, David Anthony Linehan and Patrick Desmond McMahon who have been permanently barred from ministry after allegations that they sexually abused children were found to be credible.

Being permanently barred from ministry is a step short of defrocking, meaning the three are still under the archdiocese's watch but can never again call themselves "father," wear priestly garb or present themselves as priests.

The three cases are the first in the archdiocese to be reviewed by the Vatican since U.S. bishops passed a policy two years ago saying priests with a single credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor cannot remain in active ministry.

In all three cases, Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett recommended, and the Vatican agreed, that they be permanently barred from ministry.

"It's our belief that if they remain in the priesthood, then we have the authority to monitor them and make sure they're not a danger to themselves or anyone else," said archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni.

Jim Biteman, president of the Seattle chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) expressed mixed feelings about the censure.

"Defrocking would send a very solid message that maybe the church is finally going to do something serious with these abusive priests," he said. "But if they defrock them, maybe they can't keep tabs on them."

McGreal, 81, is generally considered the archdiocese's most notorious offender. He is retired, already barred from ministry, and living in a supervised church facility in Missouri.

From 1948 to 1988, McGreal served in 10 parishes in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Monroe, Olympia, Renton, Port Angeles and Federal Way. The archdiocese knows of 40 victims he abused from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, though victims' attorneys say the number could be in the hundreds.

Civil suits against McGreal and the archdiocese have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements.

Linehan, 74, served in the Seattle area from 1956 until his retirement in 1995. He taught at St. Edward's Seminary in Kenmore, and then served in seven parishes in Seattle, Vancouver, Burlington in Skagit County, Bellingham, and Castle Rock in Cowlitz County.

In Seattle, he served at St. Alphonsus, Christ the King and St. Margaret parishes.

Two men have accused Linehan of sexual abuse dating back several decades.

Linehan, who lives in the area, was barred from saying Mass, performing weddings or any other ministerial activities after the allegations emerged. He is being monitored, meeting at least weekly with a Washington state parole officer hired by the archdiocese.

"I'm very pleased with the decision," said a 45-year-old Riverside, Calif., man who told the archdiocese around 2002 that Linehan had molested him for a year when he was about 10 years old.

"My main concern in this whole thing was that he be taken out of circulation and that he not have the opportunity to molest any further children." The man asked that his name not be used.

McMahon, 79, served in eight parishes in Seattle, Monroe, Port Townsend, Tacoma and Puyallup from 1960 until he was placed on medical leave in 1990.

In Seattle, he served at St. Bernadette, St. Catherine, St. Mark and Holy Family parishes. He did not serve in the archdiocese after 1990.

McMahon was placed on administrative leave in September 2002 after two accusers came forward.

McMahon is living in an assisted-living facility in Carlsbad, Calif., and is also being monitored monthly by a compliance officer.

Dioceses across the country have varied widely in how and when they've disclosed information on accused priests since the bishops passed their national policy in Dallas two years ago.

The three names released in Seattle yesterday are among 13 cases that were examined by the archdiocese's case-review board, which recommends to the archbishop what should be done with accused priests.

In all three cases, the archbishop followed the board's recommendation.

After the archbishop decides what to do with an accused priest, that decision is forwarded to the Vatican. So far, four local cases have gone to the Vatican. One remains there under review and the other three came back about a month ago.

The archdiocese has waited until now to start releasing the names, wanting to first establish a uniform procedure for doing so. That procedure calls for telling the priest and victims that the priest's name is about to released. Then pastors at parishes where the priest served are told so they can announce it at Masses.

"My hope is that making this information public will affirm our commitment to transparency and lead to closure and reconciliation for victims," Brunett said. "Once again I extend my sincere apology to all victims and their families for the actions of these men."

But Biteman, of SNAP, doesn't think the archdiocese is being as candid as it claims, saying it hasn't disclosed complete information about every priest who has been accused.

"I think the archdiocese has known about these priests for quite some time and again is being forced into releasing these names rather than voluntarily releasing their names," he said.

"That, from the survivors' standpoint, is the most frustrating thing."

Magnoni anticipates the release in the next few months of other names among the 13 local cases under review.


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