ELLENSBURG — A lawsuit claiming sexual abuse committed by four Catholic priests formerly of an Ellensburg church was dismissed Thursday.
The suit was filed in April 2019 by a man identified only as John Doe against the Catholic Diocese of Yakima and four priests, including Father Seamus Kerr, a senior priest at Holy Apostles Parish in East Wenatchee.
John Doe claimed he was abused in the late 1970s and early 1980s at St. Andrew Catholic Church, when he was between the ages of 10 and 18. The two sides reached a settlement after the allegations were found to be false, the diocese said Friday in a news release.
The news release included a statement to Kerr from the plaintiff’s attorneys in which they acknowledged the claims “have proven to be false.”
An attorney for John Doe could not be reached to comment Friday.
Kerr, 91, was given a leave of absence when the lawsuit was filed but was reinstated to the ministry after the Yakima Diocese Lay Advisory Board reviewed the accusations and found they were likely untrue, the news release said.
“It’s fair to say we had doubts about the accusations from the beginning,” said Monsignor Robert Siler, chancellor with the Diocese of Yakima on Friday.
Kerr denied the allegations against him through a diocese spokesman when the lawsuit was filed.
Kerr retired out of Ephrata several years before 2019 and has since resided at Holy Apostles, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported when the lawsuit was filed. At the request of Bishop Joseph Tyson, Kerr stepped aside from the ministry while the Diocese's advisory board reviewed the lawsuit, the newspaper reported.
To date, the diocese has provided John Doe with $10,000 in mental health treatment and, as part of the settlement, will provide another $5,000 in counseling payments.
“We’re happy to help him get the counseling he needs,” Siler said.