An Abuse Network Raises Questions About Seattle's New Archbishop

Did J. Peter Sartain let a porn priest slide in Illinois?

Last week, a Chicago-area bishop named J. Peter Sartain took the helm of Seattle's Archdiocese. After Sartain's first news conference here, The Seattle Times lauded his ability to memorize the names of everybody in the room, and described his reputation as "brilliant yet very approachable." A group that monitors abuse by priests says Sartain is known for something else, however: ignoring warning signs about a potential abuser. This week, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, wrote a letter to the Pope asking for Sartain's appointment to be rescinded—the first time the group has taken such an action. "You are probably not aware of just how recklessly and secretively and callously [Sartain] acted recently with a priest who pled guilty two weeks ago to molesting a boy as recently as January of this year," the St. Louis–based SNAP wrote. The individual in question is Father Alejandro Flores, convicted earlier this month of a sexual-assault charge related to the abuse of an underage boy. Sartain, then the bishop of Joliet, Ill., ordained Flores in the summer of 2009—just a few months after church officials had found gay porn with young-looking boys on Flores' computer, according to a press report quoted by SNAP. "Sartain in our view had a moral obligation to postpone the ordination, send Flores for treatment, and inform the public," SNAP president David Clohessy said in an interview with SW. "He did none of that." The Flores is case is particularly egregious, Clohessy asserts, "because it is so clear-cut and so recent. What bishops have historically said, when they were finally caught [covering up clerical abuse], was: 'We just didn't know. Now we understand. Now we'll do better.' This case shows it's not true." An Archdiocese spokesperson referred questions on the matter to the diocese in Joliet, which couldn't be reached.

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