Diocese, bishop sued in child sex abuse case

Associated Press

A personal injury lawsuit was filed Thursday accusing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane and its bishop of covering up a lengthy history of child sexual abuse by a former priest who is now a Bellevue psychologist.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 10 alleged victims and the estate of an 11th seeks unspecified general and special damages.

The lawsuit alleges church officials knew that the priest -- Patrick G. O'Donnell of Yarow Point -- was a sexual predator, yet allowed him to continue to prey upon children for 30 years.

It accuses Bishop William Skylstad and his predecessors -- Bernard Topel and Lawrence Welsh -- of failing to protect children from O'Donnell in the 1970s and 1980s.

Skylstad was a priest in Spokane during some of that time, but was not elevated to bishop until 1990, after O'Donnell had departed.

O'Donnell has not been active in the ministry since 1986. He is self-employed as a child and family therapist in Bellevue.

The plaintiffs' attorneys include Timothy Kosnoff of Bellevue.

O'Donnell was Skylstad's associate pastor at Assumption Parish in Spokane and the two priests shared living quarters from 1974-76.

Skylstad apologized Wednesday to members of a Rosalia parish where O'Donnell was assigned and planned to do the same at Assumption parish Thursday night.

Skylstad, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was among a group of U.S. church leaders who met with Pope John Paul II to discuss the seriousness of the U.S. abuse scandal.

A call for comment to the diocese was not immediately returned Thursday. Topel and Welsh are deceased.

Some victims have contacted the diocese and have been offered counseling, Skylstad said earlier.

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