Catholic church pays $2 million to settle local priest sexual abuse cases

Category: Catholic Sexual Abuse

The Archdiocese of Seattle has reached over $2 million in settlements in the past six months due to credible allegations of sexual abuse by four Catholic priests in Western Washington, including two former leaders of a parish in Snohomish and one in Everett.

The Rev. Michael C. OBrien led St. Michael Parish from 1974 to 1979.

He was succeeded by the Rev. Dennis Champagne from 1979 to 1999, who then became the priest of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood. Church leaders put Champagne on leave in 2002, after someone accused him of sexual misconduct.

OBrien was also accused of “a credible complaint of sexual abuse,” and he was defrocked in 2010.

Both men had been flagged as potential abusers for decades but continued to serve as priests.

In July, the Seattle archdiocese agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to a plaintiff accusing both priests of abuse in Snohomish in the 1970s and early 1980s, according to a press release sent out Thursday by the archdiocese.

The payout is separate from another $1.7 million settlement reached earlier in 2020, involving another allegation of sexual abuse by Champagne.

The archdiocese did not say how much time elapsed between the initial report of abuse and Champagne being put on leave.

News reports from 2002 say then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was aware of at least one allegation from the 1980s.

“When it became evident to me that an allegation from over 20 years ago, which I thought had been dealt with, was going to be made public in the press, I decided that the best thing I could do was to submit my resignation from active ministry to the archbishop,” Champagne wrote in a statement to his parish in 2002.

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