Priest expresses remorse

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Priest expresses remorse
``He has a great deal of remorse for any harm he may have caused.'' - John Bergmann, The Rev. Patrick G. O'Donnell's Seattle attorney

Jonathan Martin
Staff writer

Without admitting wrongdoing, an attorney for the Rev. Patrick G. O'Donnell said his client had "great deal of remorse" for any actions that may have led to Thursday's lawsuit for alleged child molestation.

"He has a great deal of remorse for any harm he may have caused because of any conduct he may have engaged in," said O'Donnell's Seattle attorney, John Bergmann, giving the first statement made on O'Donnell's behalf since the scandal surfaced.

"He intends to work with the diocese to resolve these claims expeditiously and justly to everyone concerned, including himself," Bergmann said.

Ten people -- nine former altar boys and students, and the widow of a deceased man -- sued O'Donnell for damages caused by the priest's alleged child molestation, and sued the Spokane Roman Catholic Diocese for failing to stop him. The suit could potentially cost both millions.

The Rev. Steven Dublinski, vicar general for the diocese, welcomed the comment and said the diocese was cooperating with prosecutors in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

"I'm glad he is saying something publicly," said Dublinski. "The victims have been gravely harmed, and it's at least a start."

.3Dublinski said the diocese attorney would turn over all names of people accusing O'Donnell of abuse. Dublinski said he was unsure how many names had been shared, or whether diocese attorney Michael Geraghty had yet provided the information to law enforcement.

Although the diocese has not turned over its records, Dublinski said information related to dates and specific allegations would be shared with prosecutors.

Michael Pfau, a Tacoma attorney for the plaintiffs, said intentions by the diocese and O'Donnell to cooperate with victims must be matched by a litigation strategy that doesn't delay the suit.

"It's one thing to say things to the public, but we'll judge their intention by their actions," he said.

Prosecutors in Spokane and Kootenai counties weren't available to comment Friday.

On Thursday, Kootenai County Prosector Bill Douglas said he had talked with two men alleging molestation by O'Donnell during his 15 years in the active priesthood between 1971-1986.

Douglas believes an Idaho law that stops the criminal statute of limitations may allow charges to be filed, if allegations can be substantiated.

Thursday's lawsuit is likely the first of several against O'Donnell. The Seattle-area attorneys who filed the claim this week say they have other clients, and plan to file another suit next week.

Lawsuits similar to the one filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Thursday show that the cost of the action may take a large toll on the Spokane Diocese.

The Diocese of Rhode Island, for example, settled with 36 plaintiffs for an average of $375,000 each.

The Archdiocese of Portland is currently facing 65 claims of sexual abuse by priests, according to the Oregonian newspaper. The priest named by most victims is the Rev. Maurice Grammond, with 46 individual allegations. Grammond is now in a Gresham, Ore., nursing home for Alzheimer's patients.

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, three lawsuits by 16 individuals claim sexual molestation by retired Rev. James McGreal.

•Jonathan Martin can be reached at (509)459-5484 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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