Nonprofit Added to Abuse Suit;
Ore. Man Accuses Priest, Seattle Archdiocese - Clergyman Apparently Directs Pullman Program

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times
January 27, 2005

An Oregon man who alleges past sexual abuse by the Rev. James Mitchell, a Roman Catholic priest who worked for the Seattle Archdiocese in the mid-1980s, has amended his lawsuit to include a Pullman nonprofit the priest apparently directs.

The plaintiff, identified only by the initials L.M., was born in Colombia, where Mitchell worked on a church mission.

The original suit against Mitchell and the Seattle Archdiocese, filed last week, accuses the priest of sexually abusing L.M. in Colombia when the plaintiff was about 14, allegedly adopting him about a year later and bringing him to the United States around 1984.

Mitchell was assigned to St. John Church in Vancouver, Wash., around 1985, and the abuse continued until 1986, according to the complaint filed by lawyer Mary Fleck.

The amended suit, filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, adds El Camino Development and Education Fund to the list of those being sued. El Camino is a nonprofit that educates homeless children in Colombia. The amended suit accuses Mitchell of using his authority and position of trust in both the archdiocese and El Camino to take advantage of L.M.

Speaking for himself, Jim Rowland, an El Camino board member, said he did not believe the allegations. Mitchell and others at El Camino did not return calls.

Mitchell and the archdiocese were the subjects of an earlier lawsuit filed by another man who also claimed the priest sexually abused him in Colombia, brought him to the states and continued to abuse him here. That case is pending.

The Seattle Archdiocese first heard of such allegations in 1986 when a young man living with Mitchell told the pastor at St. John that the priest had abused him in Colombia, said archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni. The archbishop removed Mitchell from ministry, contacted Mitchell's bishop in Colombia and informed civil authorities, Magnoni said. Church officials have no records of anyone telling them about Mitchell abusing them in the states, he added.

Because Mitchell was not a priest of the local archdiocese and because church officials didn't know of any abuse happening here, "it's our belief that we should not be a part of this suit," Magnoni said.

The Seattle Archdiocese still faces about 19 pending lawsuits. It reached an $810,000 settlement last week with eight people who claimed abuse by priests including the Revs. Patrick Desmond McMahon, Barry Ashwell and James McGreal.


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