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More Suits Target Diocese, Ex-Priest

Jan 31, 2003 | The Seattle Times More lawsuits have been filed against the Spokane Roman Catholic Diocese and the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese, alleging past sexual abuse by a former priest and a youth minister.

Yesterday, 10 plaintiffs sued the Rev. Patrick O'Donnell and the Spokane Diocese, which employed the priest from about 1971 to 1986. This brings to at least 21 the number of people accusing O'Donnell, in at least three separate lawsuits.

Yesterdays' suit, filed in Spokane County Superior Court, accuses O'Donnell of sexually abusing altar boys, students, Boy Scouts and others while working as a priest at various parishes in Spokane and Whitman counties.

The suit also accuses O'Donnell of procuring boys to be sexually abused by former scoutmaster George Robey Jr. when both men worked with the Boy Scouts in the 1970s. A lawsuit filed last October against Robey and the Spokane Diocese alleged that the two men preyed on boys together. Robey committed suicide in 1982.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, vicar general at the Spokane Diocese, said yesterday he had not yet seen the complaint and so could not comment. "We continue to be very concerned about the victims and their welfare," he said. Neither O'Donnell nor his attorney returned calls seeking comment yesterday.

Yesterday's suit also says O'Donnell's superiors, including current Spokane Bishop William Skylstad and former Spokane Bishops Bernard Topel and Lawrence Welsh, concealed knowledge of O'Donnell's actions and transferred him from parish to parish.

It also accuses former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of knowing about O'Donnell's past when the priest received sexual-deviancy treatment in Seattle. During that time, O'Donnell was assigned to St. Paul parish and school in Seattle. At least one man has alleged in an earlier lawsuit that O'Donnell had abused him while working at St. Paul.

O'Donnell most recently worked as a psychologist in Bellevue. The Washington Board of Psychological Examiners has completed a preliminary investigation of complaints against O'Donnell when he was a priest. The board has received no complaints about O'Donnell as a psychologist. The board is expected to decide what action, if any, to take against O'Donnell, up to and including fines and revocation of his license.

Another lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Pierce County Superior Court against the Seattle Archdiocese on behalf of a 25-year-old Pierce County man identified only as T.C. It accuses former youth minister Tom Jung, while employed at Bremerton's Holy Trinity Church, of sexually molesting T.C. in 1991 and 1992 when he was 15.

Seattle Archdiocese spokeswoman Jackie O'Ryan said the church reported the accusation to police around 1991 or 1992 and that both police and church officials deemed the allegation not credible at the time. The church offered counseling to the alleged victim and his family, she said.

"At a later date, we were able to ascertain that there were credible facts to that allegation," O'Ryan said, "but the accused had already been removed from ministry. At that point, we contacted the plaintiff's family, informed them of the new facts, extended our offering again of counseling and notified the police."

The new lawsuit brings to at least 16 the number of lawsuits, representing more than 30 plaintiffs, filed in the past year and a half against the Seattle Archdiocese alleging sexual abuse.

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