28 Oct 2010

Church Expert: Hard to believe Seattle archdiocese wasn't warned about abuse

KOMO News Seattle - May 14, 2009

Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer, says he finds it hard to believe the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese wasn't warned about Pat O'Donnell's admitted past abuse of boys.

by Bryan Johnson

SEATTLE -- A church child abuse expert says he finds it hard to believe the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese wasn't warned about a child-abusing priest who moved in 1976.

Whether the Seattle archdiocese knew about Pat O'Donnell's admitted sex abuse of boys is the key in a lawsuit against the archdiocese brought by two local victims.

On Thursday, the third day of the trial, Seattle Catholic Archdiocese made a very public apology, saying the church didn't realize the nature of pedophiles and child sexual abuse, and too often relied on experts who said offending priests had been rehabilitated and were ready for a new assignment.

"With hindsight, we have now and the understanding we have now about child molestation, we would never do the kind of things we did back then. We did not know at that time this was an aberration that was treatable but not curable. We made mistakes we should be sorry and we are sorry," said Father Michael Ryan of the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese.

But Ryan made it clear he was not talking about the abuse of the two men - Brian Adam and Rich Moffat - who are suing the diocese for abuse more than thirty years ago.

The priest who abused them was Father Pat O'Donnell who was ordered to Seattle from Spokane for sex aversion therapy. He became a priest at Saint Paul's Parish in South Seattle.

The Seattle archdiocese says it had allowed O'Donnell to take the post because it hadn't been informed about his history of abuse.

Ryan said a review of the secret archives and discussions with Spokane Archbishop Hunthausen revealed no evidence that the Seattle archdiocese knew about O'Donnell's past.

"That is most certainly my understanding," he said.

But an expert witness in clergy abuse cases, canon lawyer Father Thomas Doyle, said priests were often given fresh starts in new churches or another chance after therapy. He told the jury he can't believe Seattle didn't tell Spokane it was sending a sex offender their way.

"Any major issue of that nature the suffragan or the bishop of a diocese would share it with the archbishop," said Doyle.

The Archbishop at the time O'Donnell came to Seattle was Raymond Hunthausen who is expected to be called as a witness on Monday.

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