Church gathering leaves questions

Parishioners of St. Hubert Catholic Church gathered Monday night to hear from the Archdiocese of Seattle why their former pastor Gerald Moffat was kicked out of the priesthood. Many, however, said they left angry and without answers.

It was an evening of mixed messages.

Moffat was suspended from the priesthood last month due to sexual molestation allegations. But while archdiocese officials stressed those claims had not been proven to be true or false, church officials also said the allegations were “credible,” and that Moffat’s removal was necessary for the good of the faith.

For most in the audience, it wasn’t enough.

“We wanted closure. People left more upset and more confused,” said Joan Watson, a former parishioner of St. Hubert. “The panel even admitted they didn’t know if he was guilty or not.”

“I am glad I was there,” Watson added. “It validated my overall feeling about the review process and how flawed it is.”

The panel from the Seattle Archdiocese met with parishioners in the sanctuary of the Langley church to explain the process used to address allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, to answer questions regarding Moffat’s status, and to discuss the impact sexual abuse and misconduct on families and communities.

Church members expressed concern for the welfare of their former spiritual leader, who served as the pastor at St. Hubert from 1992 to 2002.

Moffat, 75, had been on administrative leave since July 2002, when two molestation allegations against him first surfaced and a lawsuit was filed against the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle and Moffat.

The allegations were never proven to be true or false, but the archdiocese and the review board recommended that Moffat be prevented from serving as a pastor. That recommendation was eventually approved by the Vatican.

Church officials described Moffat’s suspended status as a “priest without faculties” and said he is serving “prayer and penance.” He is barred from the priesthood, has been stripped of his title and prohibited from wearing clerical robes, and cannot administer the sacraments of the church. Archdiocese officials stressed that Moffat hadn’t been defrocked, however.

The panel included the Very Reverend Paul Magnano, vicar for the clergy, Reverend Tony Bawyn, judicial vicar, Denise Aubuchon, pastoral outreach coordinator, May Kay Brennan, a clinical professor in social worker at Seattle University and Orlando Manaois, a social worker from Children’s Hospital.

For most of the attendees the explanation of why Moffat was no longer a priest was unsatisfactory.

However, the review board does not have to prove if the allegations are true, only if they are credible, church officials said. But panel members also added that after reviewing Moffat’s personnel file and the files of the accuser, it was determined that the accusations were credible. The insurance carrier for the archdiocese in 1972 also recommended settling the case with the accuser’s family for $600,000, and the church settled the case.

Some said the gathering did not result in any new answers.

“It was the best rehearsed presentation I have ever seen,” said Ken O’Mhuan, a Freeland attorney and a member of St. Hubert.

“My take is the same as it was three years ago. There are people out there who want to assassinate Jerry Moffat’s character. They (the review board) don’t care to have an objective look at the situations,” O’Mhuan said.

“It’s a little like they are eating their young. It doesn’t matter to them if he is innocent. A finding of credible is good enough,” he said. “Moffat has given his life to the church, since he was 13. years old. He has been stripped of his dignity.”

The event was advertised as a healing and prayerful event.

“We are here to help each other and move forward with the healing process,” said Magnano, a vicar for the clergy.

“We apologize if any of you have been offended by any priest. I think the church is humbled throughout the country because of these allegations of sex abuse. It’s not easy,” he said.

“We want you to have the highest regard for us. You can trust us with your children and the sacraments,” Magnano said.

Many of the parishioners expressed concern for Moffat’s care.

Magnano says he regularly visits Moffat, and that Moffat will continue to be cared for by the Catholic family.

“He is a beloved resident of the home and will continue to receive his medical insurance,” Magnano said.

In 2002, one of Moffat’s two alleged victims, Jeff Alfieri, committed suicide in the parking lot of Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland.

Alfieri, 43, sued in 2002, saying that Moffat had repeatedly sexually abused him while he had been an altar boy at the Kirkland church in the early 1970s. Moffat has continually denied the charges. But the archdiocese settled the Alfieri case for $600,000 in June 2005, though his parents said at the time that the monetary award was not enough.

Moffat served as an assistant in several parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle, including St. James Cathedral from 1956 to 1960, and Holy Family Church in Kirkland from 1972 to 1975. He was pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Snoqualmie from 1980 to 1992.

In 1992, he was named pastor of St. Hubert Church in Langley. He was placed on administrative leave on July 11, 2002.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates