Archbishop Etienne of Seattle Equates AG Ferguson’s Clergy Abuse Investigation to Oversight on “Refill[Ing] Toilet Paper Dispensers”

Catholic Accountability Project (CAP) [Seattle WA]

July 2, 2024

By Catholic Accountability Project


Archbishop Etienne argues in court brief that the state has no right to investigate sexual abuse or financial mismanagement  


Earlier this afternoon, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle submitted his opposition to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s petition to compel the archdiocese to cooperate with the AGO’s subpoenas demanding abuse-related documents from Washington State’s three Catholic dioceses.

The AGO filed subpoenas on the basis of the Charitable Trust Act (CTA), which gives the Washington State Attorney General the authority to “facilitate public supervision” of public charitable trusts…and to clarify and implement the powers and duties of the attorney general.” Ferguson argues that criminal activity is not a protected activity under the CTA.

Archbishop Etienne argues that Attorney General Ferguson has no authority to investigate any part of the functioning of the Catholic Church – even when their patterns and practices include concealing and enabling sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

The Archdiocese asserts that the state has no right to analyze any specific activity undertaken by Catholic Church whether it includes activities such as “refill[ing] toilet paper dispensers,” “prepar[ing] sandwiches,” or responding to allegations of rape and sexual abuse by members of their staff. Claiming that their response to sexual abuse is a religious matter and not one of the state’s concern, the Archdiocese alludes to “religious persecution” in Attorney General Ferguson’s effort to investigate widespread sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese goes as far as to argue that the state has no authority to investigate financial mismanagement or fraud – even when there is sufficient evidence to believe such activity has taken place in the course of concealing sexual abuse, essentially declaring themselves immune from any accountability or consequences.

On Wednesday, February 14th, Archbishop Etienne responded to questions from survivors and advocates of CAP as to whether he would share abuse-related documents with law enforcement if asked of him. In a filmed response, Etienne replied, “I am here to cooperate,” and “legally, I doubt we’d have any option.”

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