Victims skeptical church has repented
Victims skeptical church has repented
The numbers may be stunning -- nearly 11,000 children abused by Catholic priests over the past 50 years in the United States -- but for those in Seattle who say they were among that group, the figures are merely a shadow indication, the epitome of a church owning up to too little, too late.
"It's the wolf in the hen house -- they're the ones who are being accused of hiding all this stuff, and now they want the public and the faithful to believe this is the full story?" said Scott Brady, 50, a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "It's not going to be over until the last victim has been healed and the church has atoned for every one."
That could take decades. In Seattle, the archdiocese announced yesterday that since 1950, 151 people had accused 49 priests of abusing them as children, although Brady, along with lawyers, victims' advocates and therapists who deal with both perpetrators and victims, said there were likely many more who had never come forward.
Some shy away from reporting out of shame. Others, like Gwen Caggiano, said the chilly treatment they received from the archdiocese had discouraged them from formally pursuing their claims. She sued, then became so discouraged that she withdrew her lawsuit.
"It's been just awful," said Caggiano, who in 2002 filed a claim asserting that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of Father Patrick O'Neill, who served in St. Charles Borromeo in Tacoma. She said she was made to feel more like a criminal than a person deserving of sympathy, let alone apology.
"It's bad enough that I was abused and raped when I was 11, 12, 13," Caggiano said. "Now here I am at age 55, being abused again. A lot of people I know haven't reported because they don't want to deal with that horrible situation."
In a statement released yesterday, Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett said, "It is my hope that making ourselves accountable will promote healing for the victims and increase protection for children in our church and society. We know that apologies cannot change history. The only adequate response is an active commitment to heal past wounds and prevent future harm."
The local data were part of a national, church-sanctioned study released yesterday. It showed the rate of clergy abuse in the Seattle Archdiocese to be in line with that reported in parishes across the country. About 4 percent of clerics were alleged to have committed sexual improprieties with children, far more than previously estimated.
In most cases, a small handful of priests garnered the majority of accusations.The Rev. James McGreal, who served in several Puget Sound parishes, was accused in 40 incidents, the Rev. John Cornelius was accused in 20 and the Rev. Paul Conn, who preached during the 1970s and '80s on the Olympic Peninsula, was accused in 14, a spokesman for the archdiocese said. The remaining 46 priests in the archdiocese each were accused of five or fewer incidents.
Two of the 49 accused priests from the Seattle Archdiocese were cleared by an 11-member review board and are still in the ministry, according to archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni. Thirty-four priests were defrocked, had died or left for other reasons. Thirteen are being evaluated to determine their fitness as clerics.
The long-awaited national study relies on voluntary reporting by bishops and for that reason was dismissed by many abuse survivors as self-serving.
"A self-study is a self-study. I have very little faith in this," said Steve Snider, whose case against a religious education teacher was settled for $469,400 last fall.
In all, the Seattle Archdiocese has spent $13.5 million on court settlements, lawyers' fees and therapy for victims and perpetrators.
Despite receiving a settlement, Snider, a 47-year-old unemployed chef, still chafes when recalling his experience. It began, as did 80 percent of the sexual assaults noted in the report, when Snider was a boy, 11 or 12 years old. First came priestly home visits from a cleric, then outings at the St. Anthony's rectory in Renton.
"That's where the molestations began," Snider said.
He reported this to the teacher, who at first acted as if he wanted to comfort the boy.
"But later on that night he brought out the lotion and raped me and did the same thing to my younger brother," Snider said. "My brothers and I never talked about it, so we didn't know what was happening to each other."
Snider insists that he knows of a dozen other men who experienced similar treatment at the teacher's hands and that most perpetrators never stop at one or two victims.
"If there were 49 priests, there's probably 1,000 victims out there," he said.
But Magnoni professed ironclad confidence in the thoroughness and accuracy of the archdiocese's figures, and said no other institution had ever undertaken such a complete, soul-baring self-study.
"We've done a considerable amount in the last 17 years to make sure this never happens again, but this is a human problem," said Magnoni. "It affects all people, and we can never afford to ignore it again. We have to be vigilant forever."
In 1987, the Seattle Archdiocese instituted several programs to rigorously screen candidates for the priesthood and address the claims of those alleging abuse. In the decade following, only three allegations of sexual abuse were reported, Magnoni said.
The two-part national report devotes considerable space to the root causes of the crises, levying harsh blame at bishops who turned a blind eye to repeated claims of priests' abuse, and at the therapists -- often employed by Catholic-run institutions -- who coddled predators.
The bulk of allegations nationwide concern assaults that took place during the 1970s.
Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University and the author of the forthcoming "Sin Against the Innocents: Sexual Abuses by Priests and the Role of the Catholic Church," suggested several likely reasons.
The sexual revolution of the period, paired with a concurrent liberalizing of the church through Vatican II, and simultaneous retirements among seasoned prelates opened the door to a generation of poorly screened, poorly managed seminarians.
"You've got this tremendous turmoil in the Catholic Church intersecting with a time of sexuality without boundaries," Plante said. "And that, along with the fact that good research on sexual offenders just wasn't available back then, all these things were coming into play."
Plante, who has treated about 50 transgressor clerics and evaluated 200 candidates for the priesthood, said there are several telltale signs that warn of possible future misconduct. First, he said, find out whether a candidate was a victim of sexual abuse himself.
Then check for impulse-control problems -- a propensity for drink or gambling, overeating or other compulsive behaviors -- and inquire about the ability to maintain satisfying, long-term friendships.
Accepted wisdom among therapists and criminologists is that pedophiles are incurable. But Plante said his experience had shown that rogue priests may be treatable when carefully monitored.
"Only 10 to 20 percent are true pedophiles," he said. "The majority are not. ... Some of these men are treatable, but you sure don't want them back in an environment around kids."JAMES McGREAL
One priest who served in the Seattle Archdiocese and was accused repeatedly of molesting young children is the Rev. James McGreal, who retired in 1988 after 40 years of working in parishes around the Puget Sound region. The archdiocese paid $7.87 million in September to settle 15 sex-abuse suits involving McGreal. Other suits remain active.
Yesterday, the archdiocese said he was the subject of 40 sex-abuse allegations -- the most in the archdiocese. Court records filed in 2003 say that McGreal admitted to his therapist that he molested "hundreds of victims."
Court records also say the archdiocese knew that McGreal made sexual advances on boys. It restricted his access to children but sent him to a Renton parish with a large elementary school and to parishes in Everett, Port Angeles and Federal Way. He also served in Olympia and Seattle.
McGreal now lives in a locked treatment center in the Midwest. Court records show that the archdiocese heard of accusations against him as early as the late 1960s and that former Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen knew of McGreal's abuse in 1977. But it was 11 years before the church removed McGreal from the ministry.
In the lawsuits, the men, most of whom sued anonymously, said the abuse occurred in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.
They said he preyed on them as altar boys, showed them pornography, plied them with church wine and kissed, fondled and had sex with them. His alleged victims ranged from fourth-graders to 12-year-olds. In many cases, the abuse lasted for years.
P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or [email protected]