Local priest accused of child sexual abuse barred from ministry

Seattle Times/September 30, 2006
By Janet I. Tu

The Vatican has permanently barred from public ministry Dennis V. Champagne, a local priest accused of child sexual abuse. The decision brings resolution to the last of 13 cases evaluated by a Seattle Archdiocese review board.

The Vatican decision, announced by the archdiocese Friday, means Champagne can no longer call himself "Father," wear priestly garb or present himself as a priest.

Champagne was placed on administrative leave in 2002 after an allegation resurfaced that he had fondled a boy in 1979.

Champagne, 61, served as a parish priest from 1971-79 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Burien, St. John the Evangelist Church in Seattle, and St. Patrick's Church in Tacoma. He was then named pastor of St. Michael Church in Snohomish, where he served until 1999.

He also served at two Pierce County parishes, St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood and Immaculate Conception Church in Steilacoom, until he was placed on leave.

Champagne's case was one of 13 evaluated from 2003 to mid-2004 by the archdiocese's case-review board, which recommends to the archbishop what should be done with accused priests. The archbishop's decision is then forwarded to the Vatican for review.

Both the review board and the archbishop recommended that Champagne be permanently barred from ministry, a step short of being defrocked.

Of the 13 cases, three were deemed not credible by the review board. The Vatican decided a fourth case did not involve sexual abuse of minors.

Of the remaining nine, the Vatican took the most serious step in two cases, forcibly laicizing — or defrocking — John Cornelius and George Barry Ashwell. It granted David Jaeger's request to be laicized, meaning all his priestly ties with the church are severed.

Six others — James Gandrau, David Anthony Linehan, James McGreal, Patrick Desmond McMahon, Gerald Moffat and Champagne — were permanently barred from ministry.

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