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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Sulpicians sued over priest’s alleged abuse

Virginia De Leon Staff writer

More than two dozen plaintiffs who were allegedly abused as minors by Patrick O’Donnell, a former priest in the Spokane Diocese, are now suing the order of priests that ran the seminary where O’Donnell was trained for the priesthood.

The Associated Sulpicians of the United States has been named as the defendant in two lawsuits claiming that officials from the order didn’t do enough to protect children from O’Donnell. Those suits also allege that the Sulpicians neglected to discuss O’Donnell’s pedophilia with the Diocese of Spokane, where O’Donnell was ordained in 1971. Instead, the seminary recommended him as “good priestly material.”

According to those claims filed this week in King County Superior Court, O’Donnell was a seminarian from 1968 to 1971 at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Wash. The seminary is now closed, but at the time it was operated by the Sulpicians, an order that has established a number of seminaries throughout the world.

Officials from the Society of St. Sulpice in Baltimore could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The lawsuits were filed by Seattle attorneys Michael Pfau and Tim Kosnoff on behalf of 28 alleged victims, the estate of one man who committed suicide as a result of the alleged abuse, as well as that man’s widow and three children.

According to the claims, O’Donnell sexually abused at least five minors while he was in the seminary: a teenage boy who was also a seminarian; a Boy Scout from Eastern Washington and three grade-school boys from Spokane.

In depositions taken last summer, O’Donnell admitted to abusing a number of boys, including some of the alleged victims who filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Spokane. Those lawsuits against the diocese have been suspended as a result of the diocese’s filing for bankruptcy protection.

According to the lawsuits against the Sulpicians, O’Donnell discussed his “uncontrollable urges to have sex with boys” and his suitability for the priesthood with seminary advisers and staff psychologists at the seminary. He was sent to group therapy with other seminarians, priests and nuns who were also struggling with sexual disorders and problems, the lawsuits claim.

“Despite knowing of his deviant sexual compulsions toward boys, the Sulpicians failed to report O’Donnell to civil authorities, failed to warn parents of his victims, failed to limit his contact with children,” state the lawsuits.

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