(CN) – A former priest agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims that he sexually abused members of the Spokane, Wash., diocese in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Patrick O’Donnell, 66, was a major part of the sex-abuse scandal that bankrupted the eastern Washington Catholic diocese in 2005, resulting in a $48 million settlement for victims to whom O’Donnell didn’t pay a penny. Victims accused O’Donnell of sexual misconduct in 66 out of 176 claims for sex abuse in the diocese, and O’Donnell himself confessed to molesting dozens of teenage boys over a 30-year period.
O’Donnell will likely not come up with the $5 million, but the victims’ lawyer, Timothy Kosnoff, said he hopes that the victims will be able to claim some of O’Donnell’s assets. O’Donnell’s La Conner house is protected by state law, along with his retirement funds. But the priest’s admission of guilt alone, Kosnoff says, will aid victims in their recovery.
O’Donnell was a priest in Spokane in the 1970s and early 1980s until parents started complaining about sexual abuse, prompting O’Donnell’s quiet transfer to Seattle.
Although O’Donnell started therapy for his sexual misconduct in the early 1970s, he allegedly continued molesting boys and kept it from his therapist. He claims to have quit the behavior completely in 1980, leaving the priesthood voluntarily in 1986 to work in psychology in Bellevue. He later surrendered his license to practice psychology as a result of 2002 investigations into his earlier conduct as a priest. O’Donnell escaped charges, though, because police were never told, and the statute of limitations had passed.
The settlement was reached before the start of a civil trial scheduled for this week, in which O’Donnell said he would not testify.
No victims will face O’Donnell in court, although other lawsuits against him are pending.