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Cheryl Buchanan
Cheryl Buchanan
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A Familiar Scenario in the Spokane Diocese

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This week, the National Catholic Reporter gave us an in-depth, and all too familiar, view into the clergy child molestation crisis. This time, the cover story was foused on the Diocese of Spokane Bankruptcy. Beneath a tangeled web of corporate ownership and property law issues, lie the same simple truths: children were serially sexually abused, crimes were covered up, and lives continue to be devastated as a result. In his lengthy article, Michael Newall does a remarkable job of letting both sides speak for themselves and revels quite a bit of the character of each.

While a popular verse in the Book of Matthew states quite clearly “For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned”, its hard to believe that many of these men of the cloth believe their own doctrine. Mr. Newall does us all a favor by reminding us of the power of our words. In claiming they answer to a higher power, perhaps the clergymen of Spokane should consider that bankruptcy might be the least of their problems.

The Sulpicians didn’t inform then-bishop of Spokane, Bernard Topel, of the extent of O’Donnell’s sexual struggles. But just two weeks after O’Donnell’s ordination in June of 1971, Topel received a complaint that O’Donnell had molested a young student at the Mater Cleri Seminary outside Spokane. Still, the diocese named O’Donnell director of the Catholic youth ministry and allowed him to serve as chaplain to the Boy Scouts. He arrived at Assumption Parish in 1974 after abuse complaints arose at another parish. Skylstad, then pastor of Assumption, has denied knowing of those allegations. (Although parishioners have long marveled at Skylstad’s ability to recall names and faces, the bishop used variations of the phrase ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘I cannot recall’ over 500 times during his three days of court deposition.)” -NCR 11/10/06