Lay employees and volunteers in schools and organizations are not named on the list, which includes only clergy. The secrets of O'Connor's abuse gnawed at him into adulthood.
When the list came out and he didn’t see the name on it, Steve O’Connor felt victimized all over again.
“It’s like ripping a scab off one’s arm,” O’Connor said Monday. “And they just keep ripping it off and ripping it off.”
Where was the name Daniel Adamson, a Catholic schoolteacher who sexually abused O’Connor as a child?
“I was shocked when I read the archdiocese’s list,” said O’Connor, 67, of Spokane.
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But not especially surprised. After all the secrets, lies and threats to keep him quiet, O’Connor, a retired police officer, said little about the Catholic church surprised him anymore.
Earlier this month, the Seattle Archdiocese released a list identifying 77 clergy members “for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible.”
The list represents the most detailed accounting of its kind for the archdiocese spanning Western Washington. It includes priests and other clergy, most of them now dead, who served or lived in the archdiocese dating to the 1920s.
But it doesn’t name any lay employees or volunteers who staffed Catholic schools or other church organizations.
Adamson was a teacher and principal at the St. Benedict School in Wallingford for 15 years. From 1962 to ’64, Adamson sexually abused a then-middle-school-aged O’Connor, who had been chosen to assist and travel with the teacher, as described in court records and by O’Connor’s own words.
Also missing from the list, O’Connor said, are the names of the Rev. Henry Conrad, two other priests and a nun who ran the St. Benedict School. O’Connor said he informed all of them about Adamson’s abuse while it was ongoing, but they did nothing.
When a then-12-year-old O’Connor detailed Adamson’s crimes against him to Conrad, pastor of the St. Benedict parish at the time, the priest offered only a warning, O’Connor said.
“I was told immediately that you’re going to hell — and I have the power to send your parents to hell, too — if you ever talk about this to anyone again,” O’Connor recalled.
For decades, O’Connor didn’t speak a word of it. He joined the Marines, fought in Vietnam, married a girl from his grade school and raised four children — all of them Catholic.
But years later, after retiring as a Snohomish County sheriffs deputy and attending the 100th year anniversary of St. Benedict School, the secrets began gnawing at him. And O’Connor knew he couldn’t keep silent much longer.
He hired Seattle attorney Michael Pfau and filed a civil lawsuit against the Seattle Archdiocese and two other defendants. The archdiocese and another defendant settled before trial. In 2012, O’Connor won an $8 million jury award against the other defendant, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which provided the school’s priests.
Pfau believes it to be the largest Catholic abuse civil verdict of its kind in Washington.
Now, with the release of the archdiocese’s list of likely abusers, O’Connor said he feels compelled to speak up again.
“I think it’s important for (people) to hear the survivor’s side of the story,” he said Monday, during an interview in Pfau’s downtown offices.
The publication of the 77 names is a positive step, O’Connor said. “But there needs to be much, much more done.”
That includes adding more names to the list — not only those of priests and clergy, but of all archdiocese employees and volunteers with credible accusations of sex-abuse against minors, as well as those who enabled them, O’Connor said.
“I blame the enablers, whose job it was to protect those most vulnerable,” he said. “The people who committed these crimes could not have lasted so long and had so many victims … if they had done their jobs.”
Aside from O’Connor, Pfau said he has represented three other clients who alleged Adamson sexually abused them, and another who alleged abuse against Conrad. The archdiocese and Oblates settled all four cases, Pfau said. Both Adamson and Conrad are now dead.
O’Connor said he finds it “disingenuous” for the archdiocese to come out with the list now — 12 years after an appointed review panel of reputable professionals recommended the archdiocese publicize a full list of the credibly accused.
To be truly transparent, O’Connor said, the archdiocese should also disclose the “secret files” and personnel records it keeps for each of the accused.
Greg Magnoni, the archdiocese’s spokesman, didn’t respond to a reporter’s call or email Monday seeking comment.
He previously said that since 2002, the archdiocese has implemented a compliance program to guard against sexual abuse. That has included conducting background checks and training for thousands of employees, Magnoni said. He added the archdiocese also reports any credible accusations of abuse to law enforcement.
Magnoni, and others who helped finalize the list, said its compilation took time, and its release this month was motivated by Archbishop Peter Sartain’s efforts to bring about transparency and healing for victims.
In a statement accompanying it, the archdiocese noted the list “would be updated as new information is received or identified.”
So far, the archdiocese has not provided additional information requested about those identified, and Sartain declined a request for an interview last week.
The archdiocese has set up a hotline, encouraging “anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy, an employee or volunteer” to call 1-800-446-7762.
But O’Connor, who worked as a narcotics detective and DARE officer in Snohomish County, said anyone seeking to report such abuse should instead call police. Even if a criminal case can’t be made, he said, it’s still important to make a public record of such crimes.
“I think there’s a credibility factor with calling the archdiocese to report these kinds of allegations,” O’Connor said.