by Paul Seebeck
Victims like Mike Shea have told the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Committee, based at St. Al's, that they felt revictimized by the church when they came forward with their stories of abuse. After watching "all hell break loose" in Boston when Cardinal Bernard Law was pressured to resign (and later did resign) for alleged sexual abuse in his diocese that happened during his tenure, the 63-year-old Shea called St. Augustine's Parish in Spokane. As a child, Shea had been an altar boy there -- and abused by a priest. "I thought, this has got to stop," says Shea of his 2002 phone call. "A young priest listened to my story, offered counseling and said he'd tell the bishop, who was leaving for Rome."
When Bishop Skylstad returned from Rome, Shea says he had a conversation with Skylstad, who told him that he'd talked to Reinard Beaver. In 1956, Shea went with on a trip to Seattle with Fr. Beaver, when Shea was 15. Beaver gave alcohol to Shea all day, then in the middle of the night, Shea woke up feeling Beaver's hand on his penis, masturbating him.
According to Shea, Skylstad told him that he was going back to Rome, but promised he'd call him when he returned. Shea turned the television on the following Friday only to see Skylstad tell reporters as he got off the plane from Rome that "there'd never been any allegations of sex abuse during my tenure." Shea went "ballistic," interpreting Skylstad's comments as ignoring his story. He called his counselor and arranged a meeting with the bishop and some of his closest advisors. "'What do you want from us?' they asked me," says Shea. "I told them 'I want it to stop! I have no intention of suing. All I want is honesty.'"
Eventually Shea got around to telling the bishop that he felt he had lied to reporters at the airport terminal. "He's so smooth, but at that point they all started tap dancing, like smoke and mirrors," remembers Shea. "He said, 'I'm so sorry. I'm praying for you.' What are you going to say to that? I've heard it so many times, I shut down. It makes me want to throw up."
Within a week, Shea knew what he wanted to say back to the bishop. He called him on the phone and said he was considering suing the Dicoese of Spokane. "You'll have to take that up with the Diocese of Seattle," is what Skylstad reportedly told Shea. Skylstad declined to comment on his conversations with Shea, calling them private.
Ever since his experience, Shea has been an activist for victims, attending both SNAP meetings and listening sessions at St. Aloysius Church. He has since filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Spokane.
Publication date: 07/29/04