An Abusive Priest from Steubenville Lives near Seattle, WA. and Worked with Vulnerable Teens, SNAP responds

An accused priest from the Diocese of Steubenville, Elwood Bernas, until recently had a job near Seattle that gave him access to vulnerable young people.  We call on bishops in both states to aggressively seek out anyone else he may have been hurt to warn police, prosecutors, parents and the public about him.

A year ago, Elwood Bernas's name appeared on the Steubenville diocese list of credibly accused priests.  And according to a newly-released investigation by USA Today, Bernas has been working as “a compliance specialist at Newport Academy, a treatment center outside Seattle for teens who struggle with substance abuse.” Additionally, since 2009 Bernas has been an active figure in a Bremerton, Washington church where he has worked as an organist.  

In both of his roles, Bernas has access to children and vulnerable adults. This is exactly why it is so irresponsible for bishops to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, supervise, transfer and shield abusive priests, only to oust them when their crimes surface and do little or nothing to alert vulnerable families, neighbors and co-workers.

Seattle's Archbishop Paul D. Etienne must now take steps to warn parents and parishioners about Bernas’ presence, using all resources at his disposal including announcements on church websites, in parish bulletins and from pulpits.

Both Archbishop Etienne and Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M Monforton must also reach out to anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered abuse at the hands of Bernas or others and urge them to call independent sources of help and make a report to local police and prosecutors.

CONTACT: Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Regional Leader, (636-433-2511, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network.)

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