The Vatican has decided that two local priests accused of child sexual abuse — the Revs. George Barry Ashwell and David P. Jaeger — will no...
The Vatican has decided that two local priests accused of child sexual abuse — the Revs. George Barry Ashwell and David P. Jaeger — will no longer serve as priests, the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese announced Monday.
The Vatican defrocked Ashwell, 62, who served in several local parishes, including more than two decades as pastor of St. Augustine Church in Oak Harbor. Defrocking — or, in church terms, “forcible laicization” — is the most severe church penalty available in the abuse cases that have come to light nationwide since 2002.
The Vatican granted Jaeger’s request to leave the priesthood — a “voluntary laicization.” Jaeger, 62, had headed the archdiocese’s AIDS ministry and had served in several parishes.
They are the second and third priests in the Seattle Archdiocese who have been laicized since U.S. bishops passed a policy three years ago that says a priest with a single credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor cannot remain in active ministry.
Ashwell is the subject of two pending lawsuits. Another suit against him was settled last year. The church also had settled about 10 years ago with another man who had claimed long-ago abuse.
Ashwell, who could not be reached for comment Monday, previously has denied the allegations.
He had served as an assistant in several parishes in Western Washington and as pastor of St. Augustine Church from 1978 to 2000. In 2001, he was named pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Buckley and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Wilkeson, Pierce County.
He was placed on administrative leave in 2001 after a lawsuit filed in Clark County accused him of abuse in the 1970s.
Jaeger has admitted to inappropriately touching eight to 10 minors at Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) camps in the 1970s. The Seattle Archdiocese settled two of those cases, one in 1989 and one late last year.
Jaeger served in prominent roles in the archdiocese, as head of its AIDS ministry from 1990 to 2002 and, years ago, as the archdiocese’s director of seminarians and director of the CYO. He served as a parish assistant at St. Joseph Church in Vancouver, Wash., from 1969 to 1972 and at Immaculate Conception Church in Everett from 1972 to 1975.
He also served as administrator at St. Therese Church in Seattle around 1988-89. He was placed on leave in 2002.
Ashwell’s and Jaeger’s were two of 13 cases investigated by the archdiocese’s case-review board, which recommends to the archbishop what should be done with accused priests. The archbishop’s decision is then forwarded to the Vatican for review.
In Ashwell’s case, the archdiocese’s case-review board and Archbishop Alex Brunett both recommended that the priest be defrocked, said archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni.
In Jaeger’s case, the archdiocese’s case-review board and the bishop had recommended he be permanently barred from ministry, one step short of defrocking.
Jaeger decided instead to petition the Vatican for voluntary laicization.
“At this point, it just seemed like a good thing to move on in a spirit of peace for the good of my own soul and the good of others,” Jaeger said Monday.
“That’s all I want to say about that. It’s probably going to be better for me to continue living my Catholic faith, which I fully intend to do, in this way.”
Patrick D’Amelio, 40, who had come forward in 1988 to the Seattle Archdiocese with allegations against Jaeger, said Monday, “I haven’t had the time to fully understand Dave’s [Jaeger’s] decision. Nor have I had any conversations with the archdiocese about the process. So I’m not prepared to comment on it.”
Dave Hamilton, a 40-year-old furniture maker in Seattle who said Jaeger molested him one evening at a CYO camp in 1978, said he was “disappointed in the entire system and how it’s treating people.”
Hamilton, whose grandfather, J. Gordon Hamilton, played a prominent role in the development of CYO’s camping program in Western Washington, settled with the Seattle Archdiocese in December 2004.
Of the 13 cases reviewed by the archdiocese, three were deemed not credible.
Of the remaining 10, the Vatican has decided on seven, including Ashwell and Jaeger. It defrocked John Cornelius. Four others — the Revs. James Gandrau, David Anthony Linehan, James McGreal and Patrick Desmond McMahon — were permanently barred from ministry.
Three cases are awaiting the Vatican’s final decision.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org