February 16, 2005 in City

Seattle Archdiocese dropped from lawsuit

Associated Press

SEATTLE – The Seattle Archdiocese has been removed as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an Idaho man who accused now-defrocked priest John Cornelius of molesting him years ago.

On Friday, Judge Paris Kallas said the Seattle Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church and the Sulpicians, the Catholic religious order that ran St. Thomas seminary, should not be part of Timothy McKenna’s suit.

The lawsuit filed last year by the Idaho Falls man said Cornelius molested him when Cornelius was a student at Mount Angel Seminary near Portland, then later when he was a priest-in-training at St. Thomas seminary in Kenmore, and later as a priest with the Seattle Archdiocese.

McKenna accused Cornelius of abusing him from about 1969 to 1975, when McKenna was about 10 to 16.

Cornelius, who was permanently dismissed from the priesthood in September 2004, also diverted thousands of dollars of church money for personal expenses – in some cases showering his alleged victims with cash, gifts and vacations – according to a Seattle Archdiocese investigation. The archdiocese said Cornelius paid the money back.

Brad Moore, McKenna’s attorney, said the judge decided the archdiocese and the Sulpicians shouldn’t be part of the suit because McKenna was not in the protective custody of the church at the times of the abuse, and, given that Cornelius was a family friend, the abuse would have happened whether the church made Cornelius a priest or not.

The abuse of McKenna would have stopped “if the Seattle Archdiocese said this guy is no longer eligible to be a priest and doesn’t have the power of the church behind him,” said Moore, who contends the church overlooked a number of red flags throughout the years.

Moore said he planned to appeal Friday’s decision. He and McKenna are still deciding whether to proceed with the suit, with Cornelius as the sole defendant.

Cornelius did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

Other defendants in the case, including the Portland and Boise dioceses, were dropped previously for various reasons, including states’ different statutes of limitations regarding when civil suits can be filed.

Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said: “We regret any harm to Mr. McKenna or any victim of clergy abuse. … We take our responsibility to reach out to victims pastorally very seriously. ”

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