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Diocese Hears New Reports Of Child Abuse

Oct 3, 2002 | Spokesman Review

The Spokane Roman Catholic Diocese is investigating allegations that another priest may have molested a series of boys in the 1970s.

The priest, whose name has not been released, had already been accused of child abuse in a single incident in the 1950s. The Spokane Diocese is now hearing that the abuse may have continued into the 1970s.

Because of the 1950s complaint, the priest was among four men the diocese notified in June that they could no longer practice active ministry, according to Vicar General Steven Dublinski.

Six new complaints against the priest emerged last week as Bishop William Skylstad visited parishes to apologize for alleged child molestations by former priest Patrick O'Donnell, Dublinski said.

"They may be of a serial nature," said Skylstad, speaking to The Spokesman-Review editorial board on Wednesday.

Dublinski said the new complaints are "pretty nonspecific" and most don't include a victim's name. In order to elicit more specific complaints, the diocese may disclose his name soon, Dublinski said.

Skylstad first wants to meet with his newly formed sexual abuse advisory committee to receive advice. The committee next meets Oct. 11.

"We're hearing folklore," said Dublinski. "We need to do some tracking to see what is true. That's why we may need to release the name, but we don't want to put a false accusation out there."

The diocese was sued last week by 10 people who say O'Donnell was a "serial pedophile" who had been protected by church leaders. O'Donnell was a Spokane priest between 1971 and 1986, before being stripped of ministerial credentials and starting a psychology practice in Bellevue.

Skylstad visited Rosalia's Holy Rosary and Indian Trail's Assumption of the Blessed Virgin parishes to apologize for any harm O'Donnell may have caused while stationed there.

The unnamed priest left the Spokane Diocese in the early 1990s and is now living elsewhere, Dublinski said. He ``most likely'' spent his career of at least 40 years here prior to leaving, Dublinski said.

Dublinski said he has received the name of one victim through a third party, but hasn't contacted the victim or the priest.

The unidentified priest, as well as O'Donnell and two other current and former priests, were stripped of authority to provide active ministry in June because of new sex abuse rules adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Skylstad is vice president of that organization.

Although other bishops nationwide have released the names of all priests accused of sexual misconduct, Skylstad has released only O'Donnell's name. He said he did so because child molestation allegations against O'Donnell were publicly disclosed in 1986.

In addition to the potential second serial abuse case, Skylstad said Wednesday that another priest has been named in a new child abuse allegation from 1978.

That priest has not been previously targeted with child abuse allegations, Skylstad said. The victim won't discuss the incident with the diocese, he said.

Skylstad said he talked with the priest, and got a ``hedgy'' response, raising the bishop's suspicions. The priest hasn't been in active ministry for years, Skylstad said.

Skylstad said he would consult the advisory board about this case as well. He said he didn't have enough information yet to contact law enforcement, or to release the priest's name.

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