The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, May 18, 2009
Clergy sex abuse victims respond to today’s settlement
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
We hope this settlement brings some measure of comfort and closure to this one victim. At the same time, however, we are grateful that the cover ups by the Seattle Catholic hierarchy will still be exposed through the trial.
Every survivor is different and heals in different ways. We appreciate every single man, woman and child who summons up the courage to expose predators through legal action. Collectively, the efforts of thousands of brave but wounded victims are gradually making the church a safer place.
We hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered O'Donnell's crimes will come forward, get help, call police, start healing and protect others. When victims and witnesses speak up, at least there's a chance for healing, prevention and justice. When victims and witnesses stay silent, however, nothing changes and kids get hurt and predators walk free.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)
One plaintiff settles, Hunthausen testifies in trial over priest's sexual abuse
One of only a handful of lawsuit nationwide against the Roman Catholic Church to go to trial continued in Seattle today as one of two plaintiffs settled his case and former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen testified.
By Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times staff reporter
Former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen — a towering figure among religious leaders here in the 1980s — took the stand Monday morning in a trial against the Seattle Archdiocese, even as one of the two plaintiffs settled his case.
In announcing that one of the two plaintiffs was no longer a party to the suit, King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas instructed jurors not to make assumptions about why he settled.
The two plaintiffs were among four men who filed the lawsuit in 2005. Two of the four settled before the trial.
As the case continued with the remaining plaintiff, the courtroom was more crowded than usual because of Hunthausen's scheduled appearance.
During his tenure as head of the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese from 1975 to 1991, Hunthausen was a controversial figure, admired by many but regarded with dismay by many others for his outspoken liberal views and actions.
Now 87, retired, and living in Montana, he walked to the witness stand slowly with the aid of a cane but spoke strongly and clearly.
What Hunthausen knew about an abusive priest who served here in the late 1970s — and when he knew it — is a key point in the trial, which alleges that the archdiocese failed to protect the plaintiffs from a visiting priest from Spokane whom they knew had a long history of sexually abusing boys.
Hunthausen acknowledged that the proper procedure for admitting visiting priests appeared not to have been followed in the case of Patrick O'Donnell.
"It was a breach on my part," he said of not requesting written documentation from the Spokane bishop at the time. "I know I shouldn't have done that."
But Hunthausen said he must have talked with then-Spokane Bishop Bernard Topel — a close friend — and gotten a recommendation from him — though Hunthausen acknowledged under questioning that he had no precise recollection of such a conversation.
O'Donnell was sent by the Spokane Diocese to Seattle in 1976 for sexual-deviancy treatment. While here, he served at St. Paul Church in Rainier Beach from 1976 to 1978 and earned his doctorate in education from the University of Washington. He has admitted to molesting both plaintiffs though Hunthausen acknowledged under questioning that he had no precise recollection of such a conversation.
O'Donnell was sent by the Spokane Diocese to Seattle in 1976 for sexual-deviancy treatment. While here, he served at St. Paul Church in Rainier Beach from 1976 to 1978 and earned his doctorate in education from the University of Washington. He has admitted to molesting both plaintiffs when they were children attending St. Paul.
Hunthausen is a central witness because much of the case revolves around whether he, and/or other Seattle Archdiocese leaders at the time, knew about O'Donnell's abusive history and behavior.
Hunthausen is the only one among those top leaders who is still alive to testify.
Plaintiffs' lawyers contend that not only did Hunthausen know about O'Donnell's history, he worked with Topel to arrange for the priest to come hastily to Seattle to prevent a scandal from erupting in Spokane.
Furthermore, they claim that the archdiocese, under Hunthausen's leadership, was negligent by not properly vetting O'Donnell before he came to St. Paul.
But the archdiocese's lawyers say Hunthausen — and others in the archdiocese — were never told about O'Donnell's history, nor that he was being treated for a sexual attraction to boys. They believed the priest was in Seattle for graduate school.
Furthermore, the lawyers say, the archdiocese received approval through a phone call from Topel for O'Donnell to serve in Seattle — though neither Topel nor the archdiocesan leader who received the call can testify since both are deceased.
Of the original four plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the two who went to trial here last week had previously settled over the same abuses with the Spokane Diocese and the Catholic order that ran the seminary where O'Donnell attended, archdiocese attorney Michael Patterson had said earlier.
During his years as Seattle's archbishop, Hunthausen, among other things, withheld part of his income tax to protest the nuclear arms buildup, gave women a broader role in church leadership, and opened St. James Cathedral for a Mass celebrated by a national gay Catholic group.
After critics wrote to the Vatican saying the archbishop was deviating too much from church teachings, the Vatican investigated and ordered Hunthausen to temporarily share power with an auxiliary bishop.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests