Seattle Catholic church members outraged to learn of violations by longtime priest
Members of a Seattle church are outraged they’re just learning a priest who had a longtime sexual relationship with a young man was disciplined in 2004. And they’re disturbed he was prohibited from performing baptisms and other sacraments but continued doing so.
The Archdiocese of Seattle sent a letter to members of St. Bridget Parish last Friday, notifying them that the Archdiocesan Case Review Board concluded Harry Quigg had sexual contact with a then-17-year-old in 1980, and continued the relationship for 15 years.
The letter said because both civil and canon law considered the age of majority to be 16-years-old at the time, the panel concluded it did not constitute sexual abuse of a minor.
Then-Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett notified Quigg in person and writing he was no longer allowed to perform any public priestly duties, present himself publicly as a priest, or wear clerical garb.
The Archdiocese says the information was not made public because it was determined the the sexual contact did not involve a minor and to respect Quigg’s privacy because it was considered a personnel matter.
Church members who wish to remain anonymous say they are extremely upset, and a number boycotted a church fundraising auction last weekend after learning about Quigg’s past and the Archdiocese’s failure to properly supervise him and prevent him from performing baptisms and other services.
“It is evident from what the Archdiocese has learned recently that Harry Quigg did not comply with the terms of his ministry restrictions,” the letter said. “It is also clear, given this information, that the steps taken by the Archdiocese were not sufficient to alert us of Quigg’s violations of the restrictions on the celebration of the sacraments.”
The letter said parish leadership at St. Bridget’s and neighboring church Assumption were unaware of Quigg’s restrictions, and the Archdiocese is making changes to minimize the chances of this type of situation from happening again.
“We regret that the steps we took were inadequate to make sure that those restrictions were not violated,” said Greg Magnoni, Archdiocese spokesman. “We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that these restrictions, no matter what the reason, are not violated, and that they are followed.”
In addition to performing mass and other sacraments at St. Bridget’s, Mangoni says Quigg – who retired in 2000 – also performed some priestly duties at other local churches.
“We believed at the time that the steps we had taken would restrict him in ministry and provide adequate protection for any vulnerable population,” he says.
Magnoni reassured church members that although Quigg violated restrictions, he was still formally a priest and any baptisms or other sacraments would be considered official in the eyes of the church.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was scheduled to hold a meeting with St. Bridget parish members Tuesday that is closed to the media.