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Suits Name 3 Priests, Archdiocese

Nov 27, 2002 | The Oregonian

Six men have sued three priests and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, saying the church ignored signs that the priests were sexually abusing them in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Revs. John Forrester, Gerald Moffat and John Cornelius are named in the cases filed anonymously Monday in King County Superior Court.

"We believe the archdiocese knew or should have known abuse was going on," Mary K. Fleck, an attorney for the alleged victims, said Tuesday. "The pattern was there; the pattern was obvious."

Fleck and co-counsel James S. Rogers filed the six lawsuits on behalf of men now 35 to 43 years old and living in Seattle; Federal Way; San Diego and Grover Beach, Calif.; and Stafford, Ariz. The lawsuits seek unspecified damages.

The archdiocese now faces 15 complaints by 30 plaintiffs accusing eight priests of sexual abuse. The archdiocese said Tuesday it had no comment.

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 Rio Rancho, N.M. A man who answered the phone at Forrester's home Tuesday acknowledged Forrester was there, but declined to let an Associated Press reporter speak with him.

Moffat is on administrative leave from St. Hubert Parish in Langley. His phone number is not published.

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, identified only by their initials, 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.

Two men accuse Forrester of abuse during church functions and overnight trips while he was at Holy Rosary Church in West Seattle. One of the three accusing Forrester says the priest molested him from the time he was 7 to when he was 14.

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.

Fleck declined to say whether any of the alleged victims reported the abuse to adults at the time.

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.

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