A Pierce County woman has sued the Archdiocese of Seattle and a retired Tacoma priest, alleging he sexually abused her while she was a student at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in the early 1960s.
During the past year, as the clergy sex abuse scandal exploded, 21 men have sued the Seattle archdiocese, alleging sex abuse by four priests dating back to the 1960s. The Pierce County suit is the first known allegation against a Catholic priest in Tacoma, and is believed to be the first involving a girl.
Archdiocese spokesman Bill Gallant could not be reached for comment Monday about the suit. He previously has said it is inappropriate for the archdiocese to comment on pending litigation.
The News Tribune is not naming the priest, because the allegations have not been reviewed by authorities.
The complaint states the priest still resides in Washington state. The 2001-2002 Catholic Directory for the Archdiocese of Seattle says the priest is retired and living in Arizona. The woman’s attorney, Michael Pfau, did not return phone calls to reconcile the inconsistency.
The woman’s lawyers filed the suit for unspecified damages last week in Pierce County Superior Court.
According to the suit, the woman and her family regularly attended mass at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in the early 1960s when she was a child.
The priest developed a close relationship with the parents and offered to care for the girl and her siblings while her mother played golf each week, according to the suit.
The parents allowed the priest to care for their children “due to the great level of trust” they placed in him as the family’s parish priest and spiritual adviser, the complaint states.
During a three-year span when the girl often was left in the priest’s care, he sexually abused and assaulted her, the suit alleges.
“(The priest) used his position as a priest to manipulate (the girl) for his sexual gratification,” the suit states.
Court documents do not indicate her age at the time of the allegations or under what circumstances the alleged abuse stopped. The suit also does not indicate whether the allegations were reported to the archdiocese.
The complaint contends the Seattle archdiocese negligently trained, supervised and retained the priest, failed to adopt policies to identify potential sexual offenders and failed to properly investigate the priest’s background.
As a result of the alleged abuse, the woman claims she lost faith in God and the Catholic Church. The complaint seeks unspecified damages for mental and emotional trauma, medical treatment, lost earnings and attorney’s fees.
Pfau, of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Malanca Peterson & Daheim in Tacoma, also is representing 14 men who sued the Seattle archdiocese, alleging the Rev. James McGreal molested them in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Church leaders didn’t publicly acknowledge McGreal’s pedophilia until 1988.