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Six Men Sue Three Priests In Seattle, Claim Abuse

Nov 26, 2002 | AP

Six men have sued three priests and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, accusing the priests of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s and the archdiocese of turning a blind eye.

The Revs. John Forrester, Gerald Moffat and John Cornelius are named in the cases filed anonymously Monday in King County Superior Court on behalf of men who live in Seattle, Federal Way, California and Arizona. The amount of damages was not specified.

With the latest lawsuits, the archdiocese faces 15 complaints by 30 plaintiffs accusing eight priests of sexual abuse.

Bill Gallant, an archdiocese spokesman, did not return a call to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for comment, nor could the morning daily reach any of the priests for comment. The archdiocese generally does not comment on pending litigation.

Cornelius, who faces another sexual abuse lawsuit, resigned earlier this year after about a dozen men accused him of misconduct in the 1970s.

According to the complaint, Cornelius lives in King County, which includes Seattle, and Forrester lives in New Mexico. Moffat is on administrative leave from St. Hubert parish in Langley.

The court filing came a day after about 40 lay Catholics and four people who say they were sexually abused by Catholic clergy met in suburban Kirkland and announced the formation of a Puget Sound chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Most of the latest plaintiffs were preteen and teenage altar boys at the time they say the abuse occurred.

All six accused the priests of "grooming" them by gaining their trust and admiration, then using threats and promises to make them participate in sexual acts. Archdiocesan officials knew or should have known of the abuse, according to the court filings.

"They're seeking damages, pursuant to the law, because they were abused by people who were in positions of trust when they were young," said the men's lawyer, James Rogers.

Three men accuse Forrester of abuse during church functions and overnight trips while he was at Holy Rosary in West Seattle in the early 1970s. One of the three accuses Forrester of molesting him from the time he was 7 to when he was 14. Another says Forrester molested him in the sacristy and during a church-sponsored trip to Rome.

A fourth man accuses Forrester of sexual abuse when the priest was at All Saints parish in Puyallup in the late '70s.

The fifth plaintiff accuses Moffat of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy for about three years at Holy Family in Kirkland.

The sixth lawsuit accuses Cornelius of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy during a church trip to Idaho when the priest was a deacon at St. Therese in Seattle and the plaintiff was an altar boy.

The meeting Sunday was sponsored by Puget Sound Voice of the Faithful, a lay group pushing for full church disclosure and accountability and for more lay involvement in church governance. Participants came from as far as Spokane, a drive of about 270 miles.

Several were skeptical about a sexual abuse policy adopted by the nation's bishops earlier this month.

"The bishops won't fix it," said Molly Harding, co-founder of the Spokane SNAP chapter.

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