Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Bishop Skylstad denies accusation of sexual abuse
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the March 16, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
On Wednesday, March 8, the Diocese of Spokane announced that an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor has been received against Bishop William S. Skylstad as part of the proof of claim filing process in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. The alleged abuse occurred in the early 1960s.
Bishop Skylstad categorically denies the accusation.
“I have kept the promise of celibacy that I made when I was ordained a deacon 47 years ago,” he said. “I hope that the Spokane community will join me in praying for all those who have come forward to report sexual abuse. Please pray for me as well.”
The internal protocols of the diocese regarding reports of sexual abuse are being followed. The Diocesan Review Board has been advised of the report. The Vatican Nuncio in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, has also been advised of the accusation
On March 9, the diocese’s vicar general, Father Steve Dublinski, and Greg Arpin, one of the diocese’s attorneys, restated Bishop Skylstad’s categorical denial of the accusation.
The bishop will remain in ministry. Should a credible accusation emerge, only the Vatican could order the bishop to step down, said Father Dublinski.
“There is no credibility to the accusation,” Father Dublinski told reporters. “None.”
At the time the alleged abuse took place, then-Father Skylstad ministered full-time as a teacher at Mater Cleri Seminary in Colbert, north of Spokane. He also was a part-time student at Gonzaga University, taking education classes. According to diocesan records, and according to the memories of priests who worked with Bishop Skylstad in that period of time, at no time did he minister in the parish where the alleged abuse occurred.
Arpin reminded reporters that the accusations were just that – accusations. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago also was the victim of allegations of sexual abuse which were later recanted.
The attorney representing Cardinal Bernardin’s accuser is the same attorney representing the individual accusing Bishop Skylstad.
The report was first received last December. An investigation of the accusation continues.
There is no secrecy involved in how the situation is being treated, said Arpin. The accusation is “being handled like all others received by the Bankruptcy Court,” he said.
Because of the potential emotional fragility of many of the individuals who have suffered sexual abuse, the Bankruptcy Court has ordered that strict protocols of confidentiality be observed by all parties.
“We are following the protocol to a T,” he said.
He confessed confusion about how detailed, confidential information about the accusation was given to various news outlets.
Besides his role as Bishop of the Catholic Church in Eastern Washington, Bishop Skylstad is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Spokane Diocese in 1989, and Spokane’s bishop in 1990.