Washington AG Sues Seattle Archdiocese Over Clergy Abuse Records

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson files lawsuit against Seattle Archdiocese to obtain records of sexual abuse allegations against clergy. Archdiocese denies withholding information, but Ferguson claims church is not fully cooperating with investigation.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Washington AG Sues Seattle Archdiocese Over Clergy Abuse Records

Washington AG Sues Seattle Archdiocese Over Clergy Abuse Records

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Seattle, seeking to compel the church to hand over its records of sexual abuse allegations against its clergy. The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court with a first hearing scheduled for May 22, is part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General's office into allegations of clergy abuse spanning the past couple of decades.

Why this matters: The investigation into clergy abuse and potential cover-ups has far-reaching implications for the Catholic Church and its accountability to the public. It also raises questions about the use of charitable funds and the transparency of religious institutions in handling abuse allegations.

Ferguson's investigation aims to uncover evidence of alleged clergy abuse and potential cover-ups by the Archdiocese. "Washingtonians deserve a public accounting of how the Catholic Church handles allegations of child sex abuse, and whether charitable dollars were used to cover it up," Ferguson stated. His office has been seeking cooperation from the church to obtain records related to these allegations, but the Archdiocese has reportedly refused to comply.

The Seattle Archdiocese denied Ferguson's claim that it hasn't cooperated with the investigation, stating that it has been collaborating with the Attorney General's Office for the past 10 months. The Archdiocese also released a statement claiming that sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by Church personnel peaked in 1975, and that there have been no reports of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult by clergy since 2007.

However, Ferguson believes the church is withholding information. "The church has more information than is shared with the public," he asserted. The Attorney General's petition filed Thursday calls the Archdiocese's list of 83 credibly accused individuals "deeply concerning" as it shows many served in positions of power for decades and were frequently transferred between locations.

Esther Lucero Miner, a survivor of sexual abuse from a Catholic priest, stated: "There needs to be an acknowledgment that protecting abusers is being an accomplice to the crime of clerical sexual abuse. There also needs to be transparency, including an openness to locked-up records, a willingness to meet face-to-face with survivors."

Tim Law, co-founder of the Washington-based Catholic Accountability Project, expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the investigation, stating that it's been an uphill battle to get details from both the Seattle Archdiocese and the Attorney General's Office. Ferguson urged any survivors or loved ones of survivors to come forward by calling 833-952-6277. He also didn't rule out the possibility of lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Spokane or Yakima in the future.

As the legal battle unfolds, the Catholic community in Washington state faces another controversy. A pastor at Shoreline's St. Luke School recently decided not to renew a teacher's contract after discovering she was engaged to another woman, sparking outrage among parents and the localcommunity. The developments underscore the challenges the Catholic Church faces in addressing both historical and contemporary issues.