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US priest exonerated in sex abuse case

Lawsuit alleged sexual abuse by four priests in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Updated: December 19, 2020 05:55 AM GMT
US priest exonerated in sex abuse case

The Yakima Catholic Diocese coat of arms. (Photo: Facebook)

A senior priest of the Diocese of Yakima, Father Seamus Kerr, was exonerated as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the diocese in 2019 alleging a man from Ellensburg, Washington, was sexually abused by priests at St. Andrew Catholic Church there when he was a minor.

"On behalf of our client ... we acknowledge that the allegations of sexual abuse and improper conduct made against you, including statements in court pleadings and the press, have proven to be false," said a letter to Father Kerr from the attorneys representing the man.

"We hereby withdraw the allegations and express our regret for any harm they may have caused to you and your reputation," it added.

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The lawsuit was filed in March 2019 in Kittitas County Superior Court and alleged abuse by four priests in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the man was between the ages of 10 and 18. An order of dismissal was entered Dec. 10 after a settlement was reached.

The diocese, which had already provided more than $10,000 in mental health counseling for the man, agreed to provide an additional US$5,000 in counseling payments.

Father Kerr, 91, who remains active as a senior priest at Holy Apostles Parish in East Wenatchee, Washington, was granted a short leave of absence following the filing of the lawsuit.

After a review of the allegations, the priest's personnel file and parish records, the Yakima Diocese Lay Advisory Board unanimously agreed the allegations were likely not true and recommended the priest be restored to ministry. Yakima Bishop Joseph J. Tyson agreed and reinstated him.

"I regret any abuse this man has suffered, and I am hopeful the help we are offering will be of benefit to him," Bishop Tyson said. "And I am very pleased that Father Kerr has been fully exonerated. He has served the church faithfully and well since his ordination in 1960."

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