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Women accuse priests of abuse

Virginia De Leon Staff writer

In the same week that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane learned that clergy sexual abuse victims want at least $58 million in compensation, two more lawsuits were filed Thursday alleging sexual misconduct – this time, by female victims.

One of the victims claimed she was abused as a 5-year-old by Theodore Bradley, a priest removed from ministry in 2002. The other said she was sexually molested when she was 12 by Garry Boulden, a priest who now works for the Seattle Police Department.

The lawsuits come on the heels of a statement for damages from attorneys representing the victims of former priest Patrick O’Donnell. Three brothers who sued the diocese for “years of abuse, sodomy and rape” want $13.5 million to $18 million in compensation, said Tim Kosnoff, one of the Seattle attorneys representing the victims. Twenty-three other victims in two lawsuits are asking for $40 million.

The cost of sexual misconduct litigation is taking its toll on the diocese’s finances, according to the bishop’s finance council. In its report published Thursday in the Inland Register, the diocesan newspaper, the council outlined the “severity of the diocese’s financial status,” laying the blame on lawsuits and the “aggressive actions of the attorneys representing the claimants.”

The council, made up of 16 lay volunteers and one priest, also stated that the insurance carriers for the diocese have made no commitment to cover the costs of these claims.

Some victims, however, have stated that they would never have sued the dioceses had it better responded to their need for healing. Those victims and their advocates assert that, instead of helping them from the beginning, the diocese has chosen to spend its money on attorneys fees and public relations.

With the two additional lawsuits filed in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday, the diocese is now the defendant in 17 lawsuits representing 50 victims. It is expecting another 15 lawsuits to be filed against it in the future.

The two most recent suits also are among just three in recent years in which the alleged victims are female. A woman in October 2002 filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Spokane, the Jesuits and the pope for the alleged abuse committed against her when she was 15 by the Rev. Dominic Doyle.

Nationwide, fewer than 20 percent of victims of clergy abuse have been girls, according to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice report that details the cost and extent of clergy sexual abuse since 1950.

But many, including David Clohessy of the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, say the number of female victims has been underestimated and underreported. Half of the group’s members and half of the people who come to the support group meetings are women, he said.

The two most recent lawsuits came as no surprise to the diocese, attorney Greg Arpin said in a prepared statement. “Diocesan attorneys had hoped to work with plaintiff attorneys to attempt to reach agreements prior to filing but plaintiff attorneys have chosen to go ahead and file lawsuits.”

The press release also noted that although the alleged incidents happened “decades ago,” it has only been in the past two years that the diocese was made aware of these claims.

In one of the lawsuits, the victim – identified as D.C. – said she was 5 or 6 years old when Bradley sexually abused her. According to the claim, the priest was a close and trusted family friend who was often a guest in the girl’s home. The abuse allegedly took place sometime in 1969-1970, according to Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, who is representing the two plaintiffs along with Kosnoff.

According to a press release from the diocese, Bradley worked in the Spokane Diocese from 1959 until 1995, when he was temporarily suspended from ministry because of an accusation of an “inappropriate sexual relationship with a young woman in her late teens.” After the suit was settled, Bradley was allowed to return to a “limited form of ministry.”

Bishop William Skylstad, however, permanently removed Bradley from ministry in 2002 in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A few months ago, the bishop heard from the alleged victim’s sister, who said that “possible misconduct had occurred,” according to the diocese’s press release. The information has been forwarded to local law enforcement authorities but the victim hasn’t contacted Skylstad, according to the press release.

Bradley, who lives in Spokane, did not return phone calls to the newspaper.

In the second lawsuit, the victim – identified only as Jane Doe – was 12 years old when Boulden allegedly started sexually molesting her. At the time, she was a seventh-grader at Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish in northwest Spokane.

Boulden, who once served as the Seattle Police Department’s director of crime victim services, now works as an advocate for the homicide unit. Although he is still a priest, he left the ministry in the early 1980s. Reached by phone at his Seattle office, Boulden declined to be interviewed.

“The allegations are vehemently denied,” said Anne Bremner, Boulden’s attorney. “There are many cases these days against priests. In that broad sweep, the net can catch an innocent and that’s what happened here and it’s truly unfortunate.”

According to the complaint, Boulden was Assumption’s assistant pastor in 1976, working under Monsignor John Donnelly, who was the parish pastor at the time. The lawsuit states that Donnelly was “specifically informed of the abusive relationship,” but the priest responded by “blaming Jane and asking why Jane wanted to ‘threaten the career of a fine young priest.’ ”

Donnelly didn’t report the matter to the police and the girl’s parents, according to the lawsuit, and instead “used the power and trust of his position to silence Jane. …”

During a brief phone interview, Donnelly said he couldn’t respond to the allegations because he was recently in the hospital, where he was treated for short-term memory loss.

According to the diocese’s press release, Boulden was a priest in the diocese from 1977 to 1983, when he voluntarily left the ministry and moved to Seattle. Diocese officials learned about the alleged abuse from Pfau, who told the diocese that Boulden engaged in sexual misconduct with a girl from 1976 to 1981.

During the same time period, the diocese heard from two people who also provided information about Boulden’s alleged sexual misconduct, but neither one would reveal the victim’s name. The diocese forwarded information about the accusations against Boulden to law enforcement, the press release said.

Both lawsuits assert that the priests used their positions to gain the trust of the victims and their families in order to rape and molest the girls. The lawsuits state that the diocese “knew or should have known” that the priests were child molesters. But instead of warning parents and protecting the girls, church officials “actively sought to conceal and cover up” the abuse.

In some ways, Jane Doe, D.C. and other women have become the “forgotten victims,” said Clohessy. In our “homophobic society,” people are often more outraged if the victim is a boy, he said. Some people also blame the female victims, calling them “tramps” who seduced their perpetrators.

“I’ve told my abuse story many times, but as a man, no one has ever asked me what I was wearing, if I was flirtatious or if I developed early,” Clohessy said.

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