Two prominent legal professionals and practicing Catholics want straight answers from the Seattle Archdiocese. They say its recently published list of clergy members identified as admitted or credibly accused sex abusers of children is more of a PR move than a sincere effort.
Two prominent legal professionals and practicing Catholics want straight answers from the Seattle Archdiocese to questions about its recently published list of clergy members identified as admitted or credibly accused child-sex abusers.
Terry Carroll, a retired King County Superior Court judge, and Mike McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said they’re frustrated with what appears to be more of a public-relations move than a sincere effort at transparency and accountability.
In 2004, the two men headed an appointed review panel charged with examining clergy sex-abuse cases that recommended the archdiocese publicize names of credibly accused clergy. This month, the archdiocese essentially did that — disclosing names of 77 priests and others “for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible.”
The list is posted on the archdiocese’s website. For each offender, it offers a name, a current status with the church, and details about dates and assignments within the archdiocese spanning from the 1920s to 2007.
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But the accounting provides no details about when and where the alleged sex abuse occurred — information Carroll and McKay contend parishioners and the public deserve to know.
“Congratulate them on publishing these names, but that’s hardly the full story,” Carroll said. “Not so fast. Fill in the gaps and let us talk about it. I think that would be healthiest thing moving ahead.”
The two men urged the archdiocese to provide a thorough public airing about the church’s work in addressing child-sex-abuse issues leading up to the list, as well as answering several key questions:
• Why did it take so long for the archdiocese to publish the list?
• Why aren’t the names of certain credibly accused priests from other religious orders included in it?
• How many children were victimized by each offender?
• How much money has the archdiocese spent in attorneys’ fees fighting sex-abuse claims, and how did it pay for them?
Carroll and McKay also want the archdiocese to release each listed clergy member’s secret file in full, other than redacting names of victims.
“Put it all out there,” Carroll said. “Open these files and let us finally know exactly what happened so that we can put it behind us, instead of this type of an approach they’re doing with talking points and all of the spin that goes along with it.”
Since it published the list on the Friday afternoon before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the archdiocese has said it will continue reviewing cases to determine if additional information or names should be included.
But it hasn’t responded to a number of follow-up questions, and rejected a request to provide additional information about those on the list and the allegations against them. Archbishop Peter Sartain has declined interview requests.
Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni, in responding to Carroll’s and McKay’s question about attorneys’ fees, said it’s “nearly impossible” to determine what has been spent because the fees were part of settlement costs covered by insurance.
Transparency and healing
The archdiocese has said publication of the list was motivated by Sartain’s commitment to transparency and healing for victims, not by outside pressure or legal concerns.
The endeavor came after months of work by a consultant hired to evaluate case files and an appointed board that reviewed her recommendations, Magnoni has said.
But Carroll and McKay believe fallout from parishioners’ criticism over the archdiocese’s mishandling of an accused priest in 2014 prompted Sartain to act. The priest, the Rev. Harold Quigg, was among 13 clergy that Carroll, McKay and eight others on the 2004 review board investigated for child-sex-abuse claims.
The board supported accusations against nine priests and did not substantiate claims about three others. It also found allegations against Quigg to be credible, but determined they didn’t amount to child-sex abuse because the minor involved was 17 — a year older than the age of consent under church law.
Still, the panel wrote to then-Archbishop Alex Brunett, “This priest’s actions were so egregious so as to make him unsuitable for the priesthood.”
Among recommendations in a June 2004 report, the board advised Brunett to seek to defrock or bar from public ministry Quigg and the nine others, and to publicize their names.
Brunett resisted publishing the board’s report and wanted it rewritten, Carroll and McKay said. Brunett at the time said the board had exceeded its charge and that most of the recommendations were already in place.
Only after board members threatened to resign did Brunett publish the report, including the names of the nine priests. But Quigg’s name wasn’t released.
Brunett told the board Quigg “would live this life of private contemplation and penitence, but there would be no public ministry,” McKay said.
A few months later, when McKay attended a Catholic funeral of a friend in Bellevue, Quigg was officiating at the Mass.
“There he is up on the altar, and I’m very sure I’m the only one in the congregation that knew he shouldn’t be there,” McKay recalled.
In a December 2004 letter to Burnett, six review-board members called him out about Quigg and took issue with him for not adequately responding to their recommendations for more accountability for perpetrators and improved safeguards to reduce further abuse.
But 10 years later, North End parishioners at St. Bridget Church who learned Quigg was supposed to be barred from public ministry complained he still occasionally performed baptisms, funerals and weddings.
In May 2014, the archdiocese issued a statement about Quigg, detailing that starting in 1980, he and a teenager had “engaged in a 15-year-relationship.”
“The information was not made public because of the determination that the sexual contact did not involve a minor,” said the statement, which noted Brunett had ordered Quigg barred from public ministry.
The statement also said the archdiocese “learned recently” that Quigg had disobeyed the orders and that parish leaders weren’t alerted to the restrictions on him.
Carroll and McKay fired off a letter to Sartain, who replaced Brunett in 2010. It criticized the archdiocese’s statement about Quigg for errors and for downplaying the serious nature of his abuse.
“We had to call them on that for a couple reasons,” McKay said. “One, it was false. But secondly, it reflects a lack of vigilance on the Chancery’s part. We put them on notice about Quigg, and 10 years later, they said they didn’t know he was in active ministry.”
A short time later, Carroll and McKay sent another letter to Sartain, asking for an update on the nine other credibly accused priests from their 2004 review.
In July 2014, Sartain responded with an update saying all nine had been removed or restricted from ministry. His letter added he hadn’t had to discipline a priest for child-sex abuse since taking over as archbishop, nor was he “aware of any priests who have been disciplined for sexual abuse by Archbishop Brunett after 2002 that were not made public.”
Sartain concluded: “There is no place in the church for those who abuse minors, and I intend to do everything in my power to be sure that the vulnerable are protected and safe in our parishes and schools.”
Within three months of his letter, the archdiocese’s legal counsel had hired Kathleen McChesney, a consultant who specializes in investigating child-sexual abuse in religious institutions. She was tasked with compiling the list of credibly accused clergy.
McChesney reviewed dozens of files to compile the list of 77 names by April 2015, she said.
“This was not an investigation by any means,” said McChesney, a former King County police officer and FBI administrator. “People were not contacted and interviewed.”
Instead, McChesney mostly focused on information already in the files.
“For the names we put forth, we felt we had enough information to make those determinations,” she said.
Because she was hired by the archdiocese’s legal counsel, McChesney said her work is covered by attorney-client privilege. She noted that means she can’t be forced to testify in court if someone sues the archdiocese later about claims related to the list.
“Some people might think (the archdiocese) did this for protection, but that’s not the case,” McChesney said. “There’s integrity in this and the people who worked with me. We didn’t have to do this. Our goal is to encourage others to come forward.”
Lucy Berliner, a member of both the 2004 review board and the current one that evaluated McChesney’s recommendations, added that the panel thoughtfully considered each case.
“The reason it took so long was because of this sort of caring, deliberative process we took,” said Berliner, who directs the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress. “And in my view, it was very transparent.”
Many clergy on the list previously had been named in news reports and by victims’ advocates. That includes Quigg, who died in last November. A number of other accused clergy — and lay employees — are missing from the list, some say.
McKay and Carroll said they believe McChesney and the board’s work is competent.
“We’re not disputing that,” Carroll said. “But there are other questions, and for the sake of transparency, much more needs to be known.”