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Seminary staff accused of abuse

Allegations of sexual misconduct have recently surfaced at Mater Cleri, the former seminary in Colbert that was supervised for several years by Bishop William Skylstad.

A letter sent last month to alumni indicated that the Catholic Diocese of Spokane had received information “of an act or acts of sexual abuse, boundary violations, inappropriate touching or criminal acts” committed by a person on the Mater Cleri staff. The letter did not indicate who the alleged abuser was nor did it provide any details or time frame of the misconduct.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, one of the diocese’s two vicar generals, did not respond to requests seeking more information about the alleged abuse.

“The bishop wants everyone to know his distress to learn such behavior took place at Mater Cleri,” wrote the Rev. Msgr. John Steiner, who’s also a vicar general. “He is so sorry about this. We do not want in any way to hide this matter. There is not reason to pretend it did not happen.”

Steiner, in his message to former students, noted that no one on the Mater Cleri staff has ever been accused of such behavior.

Established in the early 1960s, Spokane’s high school seminary program educated hundreds of young men who lived on campus while discerning their call to the priesthood. Skylstad, who was a priest at the time, was the school’s rector from 1968 to 1974. Prior to that, he taught several subjects at the school including math and physics.

Mater Cleri – which means “Mother of the Clergy” – closed in June 1974 after then-Bishop Bernard J. Topel and a team of priests established a new vocational program for future priests. Declining enrollment was also a factor. The facility in Colbert was later renamed the Bishop Topel Center and used by St. Joseph’s Parish.

In his letter to alumni, which is also posted on the seminary’s Web site, Steiner asked alumni if they were aware of any classmates who may have been abused. If so, he urged them to contact the diocese and review the information on how to file a claim against the diocese in bankruptcy court.

“This is a sad day for our memories of Mater Cleri, but if students were hurt in any way we must deal with that reality,” wrote Steiner. “Our first care must be for them.”