Bishop Accountability

Accused Priests: 13 (Skylstad's earlier count of 12 credibly accused did not include 4 extern priests and an unreported number of order priests)
Total Diocesan Priests: 201 (not including externs or order priests)
Alleged Victims: 101 (Skylstad's earlier count of 87 did not not include 6 allegations against extern priests, and 9 claims against order priests)
Cost: $946,268 ($120,000 for settlements, $76,268 for counseling and prescriptions, and almost $750,000 for attorneys and their consultants)

Data from Bishop Skylstad's report and Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses, updated using the 2/28/04 story in the Olympian, reporting on Skylstad's 2/27/04 press conference.

"To all parishioners of the diocese"
from Bishop William S. Skylstad

December 26, 2003

My dear friends in Christ:

As the year draws to a close, our thoughts turn to the New Year. With that year come our hopes that 2004 will again be a time filled with the joy we share as we experience God’s abundant blessings on our faith community in Eastern Washington. We also stop to take stock of this year that has almost run its course. I want to update each of you on our Church’s continuing challenges. Particularly, I want to talk to you about the issues surrounding the tragedy of the abuse of children by some priests in days past. I also want to discuss some items I expect you will be reading and hearing about in the near future.

In regard to the safety of our children, my goals as your bishop remain the same: prompt reporting to the authorities of any credible instances of abuse; prompt action where required to assure parents that children are being protected; creating and implementing procedures to prevent any reoccurrences; full disclosure of all that we know; our continued effort to reach out to victims of this calamity in order to begin the process of healing and reconciliation.

While these past tragedies can and will have an impact on the finances of this diocese, all parishioners should understand that our first responsibility as witnesses to the Gospel is to be concerned about the needs of people. We must fulfill our obligations to assist victims who have been injured by this personal tragedy in their lives.

In addition, as many of you know, the Church as an institution can and does do much good through its support for the many educational and social service programs designed to meet the needs of the people of God, including the less fortunate among us. In the coming months we must also preserve our ability to fulfill this key mission in our community.

I want you all to know that my goal is to resolve through mediation and settlement where possible the various claims that have been and will be made against this Diocese. To some degree, I expect this Diocese – and to a larger degree, our insurance carriers – will participate in various financial settlements which I hope will help to compensate for and mitigate the wrong that has been perpetrated against the innocent.

This issue will continue to be highlighted in the media, and rightfully so. However, I want you to hear this news from me first. I hope this letter will help explain a number of events that are sure to arise in the next few months. I hope I can anticipate and answer as many of your questions as possible.

In early February, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will release the results of a survey of all 189 of our nation’s dioceses. The survey is an attempt to understand the scope of the abuse of children by priests. As bishops, we believe that understanding the extent of the issue is an important first step in dealing fully and completely with the challenges implicit in the crisis.

For its part, the Spokane Diocese filled out and returned the survey in mid-summer this year. As you know, I have repeatedly called for victims to come forward – and they have, some in the last few months. And so, the data we provided some months ago for the survey is now incomplete. We have become aware of other instances of abuse, and have released the names of deceased priests against whom credible accusations have been made.

As I’ve said before, my goal is full and complete disclosure. Because of this commitment, the Spokane Diocese has reported facts beyond the limits required by the survey. For example, the survey requested information regarding only abuse situations which occurred since 1950. I have instructed our Vicar General, Father Steve Dublinski, to include, as well, all reported instances of abuse, even if such abuse occurred before 1950.

This is a serious situation and I take the matter seriously. I want to make sure our parishioners receive a clear picture of the problem and know just as clearly our response.

That is why I have included the enclosed pages of questions and answers. I know the material seems lengthy, but it is my sincere hope that the information will address most, and perhaps all, of your questions which might have come up in the past year. I hope the information will also provide some helpful background as news stories develop in the days ahead.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Father Dublinski. If you know of any victims who have not come forward as of yet, please encourage them to do so. We at the Catholic Pastoral Center want to help all victims begin the process of healing and dealing with this tragedy.

Once again, on behalf of all the many decent and honorable people within our Church, I want to apologize. I am profoundly sorry that such an egregious breach of faith occurred at the hands of those who were entrusted with the spiritual growth and well-being of those whom they abused and violated instead.

Much peace during this Holy Season, and best wishes for the New Year.

Bishop William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane

Questions and Answers

1) In the history of the Spokane Diocese, how many diocesan priests have been credibly accused of abuse?
A: To the best of our knowledge we have credible claims of abuse against12 Spokane Diocesan priests, five of whom are deceased, and four extern priests, three of whom are deceased. Extern priests are priests from other dioceses or Religious Orders who lived and served in this diocese for one reason or another.

2) How many persons have claimed they were abused as minors in the diocese by diocesan priests?
A: So far the number of accusations against diocesan priests is 87. The number of accusations of which we are aware against extern priests is six. We are also aware of nine claims of abuse against members of religious orders. We expect more claims and more instances as more victims heed the Bishop’s call to come forward.

3) How many diocesan priests have served in the Spokane diocese?
A: Since 1950 we have records on 201 diocesan priests. This would not include the extern priests and members of religious orders and communities who have served in the Spokane Diocese since that time.

4) Regarding claims of abuse by priests attached to the Religious orders, are the orders providing their own account?
A: The individual orders are participating in the John Jay Study. The results of their surveys will be included in the John Jay Study.

5) What percentage then of diocesan priests can be considered to have been abusers? How does that compare to the national average?
A: Approximately 6 percent. Beyond speculation, it is not known what the national average is. We look forward to the John Jay Study coming out with the first accurate accounting of that average. We expect this Diocese’s number to be close to the national average.

6) How much money has been paid to date in settlements by the Spokane Diocese?
A: $ 120,000 for settlements and $76,268 for counseling and prescriptions. This does not include any amounts paid in settlement by insurance carriers or the abuse perpetrators.

7) What is the sum of the other costs for attorneys and their consultants?
A: As of the end of this year that number will have reached almost $750,000. As usual, there will be a full and detailed accounting in the annual report we make public each January of diocesan finances in the Inland Register.

8) Where is the money going to come from to pay these costs and anticipated settlement costs for cases already filed and cases expected to be filed?
A: The Spokane Diocese has very few liquid assets. Many of its funds are specifically dedicated funds which cannot be used for purposes other than those prescribed by contract when the funds were established. As a result, the Diocese will look to its insurance carriers to meet their obligations for coverage of claims. To the degree possible, the Diocese will continue to financially assist in paying a portion of the litigation costs and settlements.
All the dollars contributed to special fund drives such as Catholic Charities’ Christmas Collection go entirely to those dedicated purposes and cannot and will not be used as part of any settlements.

9) How does the Spokane Diocese compare in assets to other dioceses across the nation?
A: In comparison to many other dioceses across the country, the Spokane Diocese does not have a high base of assets, nor many dollars that can be legally accessed to become part of any settlement offerings. Our ability to borrow is limited because there is little collateral we can pledge. To the extent possible, the Diocese will engage in borrowing, but we fully expect our insurance carriers to do their fair share with regard to settlements.

10) Will the Diocese contribute anything to future settlements, or a so-called “global settlement?”
A: Yes. To the best of our ability and to the extent we can do so without jeopardizing the essential and overall ministry of the Diocese.

11) What if for some reason insurance carriers balk at doing their fair share? What then?
A: We will most certainly take appropriate legal action against any such carriers to hold them to their contractual obligations.

12) In a worst-case scenario, will the diocese contemplate bankruptcy?
A: We do not consider voluntary bankruptcy to be a viable option. It sends the wrong signal to victims and to parishioners that finances take precedence over meeting human needs. The Bishop is committed to doing justice for the victims and continuing the ministry of the diocese for parishioners.

13) Are there other lawsuits yet to be filed?
A: Yes. Because the Bishop has continued to call for victims to come forward, we fully anticipate there are more alleged victims who have not come forward but at some point in the future will. Rather than contact the Diocese, some of those victims may decide to just contact an attorney and file a lawsuit. In other instances, we have been made aware of claims by attorneys for victims, and have attempted and will continue to attempt resolution. If the claims are not able to be resolved, we expect additional lawsuits will be filed on those claims.

14) What is the average amount being paid out in settlements to victims?
A: Averages for settlements vary across the country. The amount of a settlement often is related to the degree of abuse, as well as how juries and attorneys view the conduct of the diocese in which the suit has been filed.

15) Why are things taking so long to resolve in this diocese? Why hasn’t the Bishop just ordered his attorneys to settle with all the plaintiffs?
A: In general, the Bishop encourages resolution through settlement of the claims which have been made. That being said, though, it is not just a simple matter of the Bishop “ordering” that a case be settled. There are a number of factors which must be considered and steps taken before legal claims can be settled. First, each claim must be investigated to establish the facts of the claim. That process takes time. It would simply be imprudent to settle a claim before a proper investigation of a claim is made. Insurance carriers could refuse to provide coverage for cases which in their view have not gone through the process to ascertain and establish the veracity of a claim. Once the investigation of each claim is completed, then the process of reaching a settlement necessarily involves a dialogue between the diocese and the attorney or attorneys for each claimant regarding the amount of the settlement. That process itself is time consuming and involves considerations of insurance coverage available for the claim, the ability of the diocese to financially contribute to any settlement, and of course the willingness of the claimant and his or her attorney to settle. As a result, we can reasonably expect that it will be many more months before all claims are examined and resolved in a proper, fair and legal manner.

16) Given the potential financial exposure the diocese faces, how does the Bishop justify a fund-raising campaign for the formation and education of seminarians?
A: Along with addressing and resolving the claims of victims of past abuse by former priests of the diocese, the proper formation and education of future priests to serve the diocese is an integral and important part of the ministry of the Bishop. Indeed, it is essential to prevent the problem of abusive priests from ever occurring again.

17) Earlier this fall the Bishop released the unofficial results of the audit conducted by The Gavin Group, a firm made up of former FBI agents. Gavin representatives visited each diocese to evaluate that diocese’s progress in fulfilling approximately 18 criteria, mandated by the bishops on the national level, to properly address the issue of abuse by priests. The unofficial results gave the Spokane Diocese a clean report, with no recommendations for improvements and several commendations for exceptional performance. When will the official results be released?
A: The official results of the nationwide audit will be released on January 6. The Spokane Diocese’s section of the national report will confirm the independent auditors’ preliminary assessment: this Diocese passed the evaluation. The news is very heartening to the Bishop and all those in the Catholic Pastoral Center where everyone is working hard to ensure that the children of this diocese are safe and that parents can feel secure in the knowledge that their children are protected.

18) What other news do you expect in the coming year?
A: The Bishop’s first priority is reaching out to victims, and he sincerely wants all victims of abuse by priests and religious in this diocese to come forward, either by contacting the diocese or seeking legal counsel so they can begin to come to terms with the acts they endured and begin the process of healing. There will be new claims and we anticipate new additional lawsuits involving the known abusers. The Bishop and his staff will do their best to address those claims and lawsuits in the spirit of the Gospel message of love and reconciliation.

In state, 268 alleged victims of 68 priests

By Staff and news services
The (Olympia WA) Olympian
February 28, 2004

The Catholic Church has spent $15.5 million in the state dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests, the church revealed Friday.
More than half of that amount was used to settle cases dealing with a priest who spent five years of his 40-year career at Saint Michael Catholic Church in Olympia.

The report by the Archdiocese of Seattle said 68 Roman Catholic priests in Washington are accused of sexually abusing 268 children from 1950 to 2002.

The majority of the abuse cases occurred years ago, according to the Washington state contributions to a national, church-sanctioned study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"To our knowledge, there has not been one instance of abuse by a priest or a deacon in this diocese since 1991," Bishop William Skylstad of the Spokane Diocese said at a news conference Friday.

The largest settlements deal with James McGreal, now 80, who was a priest at Saint Michael from 1966 to 1971.

The church announced last year that it had settled 15 clergy abuse cases involving McGreal for $7.87 million. The abuse cited in those cases occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said.

Attorney Michael Pfau of Tacoma, who handled those cases, said two of the victims in the resolved cases were abused by McGreal in Olympia. Several other lawsuits stemmed from abuse McGreal committed while at other churches, including St. Catherine Catholic Church in Seattle and St. Anthony's in Renton.

Pfau said he intends to file another lawsuit in the next few months against McGreal on behalf of nine more victims. Two of those nine allege they were abused by McGreal while he was in Olympia.

McGreal resigned in 1988 after sex-abuse allegations were made public. He was ordained in 1948 and served in at least six parishes and two hospitals.

McGreal lives in a secure facility near St. Louis, Mo., where he is supervised and receiving treatment, Magnoni said.

The church encourages other victims to come forward, he added.

"It's a moving target," Magnoni said. "The potential for future lawsuits is always there."

Skylstad, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the goal of church leaders is that no child is ever molested by clergy again.

"It is nothing less than to achieve a perfect record," Skylstad said. "Not one more instance of abuse by Catholic clergy any time, anywhere, anyplace."

But victims criticized the Jay study as biased and said they remain skeptical of church leaders who covered up abuses for decades.

"These numbers only represent the numbers of documented cases," said Jim Biteman, director of the Seattle chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "How many other cases have gone undocumented?"

"It was a voluntary self study," said Molly Harding, leader of the Spokane chapter of SNAP. "The church formulated the questions, and the church controlled the materials provided. A third party did not verify all of the information."

The number of victims could have been reduced if bishops had moved quickly against perpetrators instead of ignoring the problem or transferring the priests to other parishes, Biteman said.

Two unprecedented national studies released Friday found that nearly 10,667 minors have claimed they were molested by U.S. Roman Catholic clergy since 1950, and that bishops bear much of the responsibility for the crisis.

The abuse claims were filed against 4,392 of the 109,694 clergy who served during the past half-century -- or about 4 percent of the clerics, according to the report by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

In Washington, the Spokane Diocese reported complaints against 13 priests, or 6 percent of its 201 priests, since 1950. There were 101 alleged victims.

The Seattle Archdiocese said complaints were filed against 3.9 percent of 1,249 priests, with 49 priests accused by 153 people.

The Archdiocese reported spending $13.5 million to deal with the allegations. That included $11.8 million on victim settlements, $474,000 for counseling, $350,000 for pastoral care and $900,000 for attorney fees.

"It is with deep regret for the crimes of the past and a sense of hope for the future that I make this report today," Archbishop Alex J. Brunett said Friday. "One child harmed is one too many. We know that apologies cannot change history. The only adequate response is an active commitment to heal past wounds and prevent future harm."

The Rev. Jim Lee of Saint Michael Catholic Parish in Olympia said efforts have been made to keep church members informed.

"We've been trying to put information in our Sunday bulletin to keep people aware of what we're doing, basically trying to be proactive and transparent and not avoid the issue," he said.

The church performs background checks on all employees and requires that chaperones work in pairs, Lee said. Much of these efforts began before allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in the Boston archdiocese.

"Probably what is the most important is the ongoing daily effort to faithfully administer to folks and to be a place that is safe for everyone," Lee said. "We try to take common-sense precautions to ensure safety."

A few months after bishops met in Dallas on sexual abuse in June 2002, Saint Michael invited residents to the church to talk about the issues. The six-hour gathering drew about 40 people.

Within the past three years, Lee said, a few people came to him to report sexual abuse they had experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. Lee, who has a degree in counseling, said he listened and connected victims with the Archdiocese, which provides therapy and investigates charges.

Abuse by Catholic clergy reached its peak in the Seattle Archdiocese in the 1970s, the report said. Although half of all allegations of clergy abuse were received by the Archdiocese of Seattle in the past three years, more than 75 percent of the reported incidents occurred before 1980.

Release of names of priests accused of sexual misconduct

October 23, 2002

After personal reflection and consultation with advisors including the Diocesan Review Board, I am releasing the names of the following Diocesan priests incardinated in the Spokane Diocese who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors: James O’Malley (1989), Theodore Bradley (2002), Art Mertens (1989), and Reinard Beaver (1983). The year next to their names indicates the year they were removed from public ministry. These four have been removed from priestly ministry in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 15, 2002.

In addition, two former priests accused of sexual abuse resigned from ministry: Patrick J. O’Donnell (1985) and Bernard Oosterman (1980).

All the alleged abuse incidents occurred at least fifteen years ago and action was taken to remove these men from ministry when the Diocese became aware of the allegations. These cases have been turned over to local law enforcement authorities.

I encourage victims of sexual abuse to contact our Assistance Coordinator, Gene DiRe or Father Steve Dublinski.

I especially appeal to the Catholic community and to the broader community to have empathy and compassion for victims and their families as well as for the offenders and their families. As a Catholic community of faith we strongly believe in the healing power of God. The Gospel summons us to find the grace of God even in the midst of evil, suffering and tragedy.

Bishop William S. Skylstad D.D.
Bishop of Spokane



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