Truth and Reconciliation Commission Says Seattle Archbishop is Stonewalling Them

Posted on: March 5, 2021 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

Seattle Truth and Reconciliation Commission Heal our Church, the citizen-led group of prominent Catholics in Washington State discussed last April, are continuing their call for a public review of the “Seattle Archdiocese’s private records on clergy abuse.” The alliance remains resolute that a ‘truth and reconciliation’ approach to the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal will bring healing through transparency.

The group has been trying to meet with Archbishop of Seattle Paul Etienne for quite some time. Etienne, however, seems in no hurry to hear what they have to say. Responses from the Archbishop’s office regarding requests to meet have been met with standard form letters disputing the necessity of discussing the sexual abuse scandal. Other responses cite various reasons why their original meeting was postponed and that scheduling a new date isn’t possible at this time.

In one email, coronavirus was given as the main reason for the inability to meet in person. Additionally, that email notes that a “thorough outside review of the files by qualified lay people (and) a review of allegations by a group of qualified lay experts has already been done”. To group members, this gives the impression that the Archdiocese approves of continuing to promote secrecy and not fully addressing the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Is There a Reason for Stonewalling?

Since the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal was made public, it is not hard to imagine why trust and credibility in the Catholic Church has been shattered. Scattered details have emerged that the Seattle Archdiocese hasn’t always put the victim first when claims of sexual abuse were made against its clergy. Lawsuit filings brought by abuse victims show that late Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connolly knew of Rev. Michael Cody’s predation of children but still moved him from parish to parish. Heal Our Church’s goals of truth and reconciliation would hopefully bring more of these situations to light should they exist.

Before Archbishop Etienne’s appointment in 2019, various steps were taken to address clergy sexual abuse. A case review board was created in 2004 to review clergy abuse claims. More recently, Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent, reviewed the Archdiocese’s archives leading to the 2016 publication of 77 credibly accused clergy.

Even with all the steps taken, Heal Our Church still feels left in the dark. They claim the church never openly details how much they knew about the sexual abuse allegations or when they first learned of them. More often than not, it is only through lawsuits that any details emerge at all.

Heal our Church has 250 signed supporters, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes. However, given the Archdiocese’s current stance on discussing these matters, it seems unlikely there will be any progress made regarding the group’s review request. Unfazed, the group says it will continue its efforts in 2021, which could include legal action.

The entire article can be viewed here.

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