Seattle Priest Resigns Over Abuse

Associated Press/May 25, 2002

Seattle -- A Roman Catholic priest who was monitored by an archdiocese-hired parole officer because of sexual abuse allegations was removed from his post after at least a dozen new abuse accusations, diocese officials said Friday.

The Rev. John Cornelius, 56, apologized to his accusers, to Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett and others.

"I've tried to be a good priest but it's obvious I have failed and I accept responsibility,'' Cornelius, 56, said in a statement read by a diocese spokesman. He had previously denied any wrongdoing.

In April, Cornelius was put on administrative leave after two men alleged he improperly touched them when they were students at a Seattle-area Catholic school in the 1970s.

Since the two men's claims were revealed publicly, at least 10 others have accused Cornelius of molestation, the archdiocese said last week.

In 1997, Cornelius was ordered to meet regularly with a state parole officer hired by the archdiocese after an Idaho man accused the priest of abusing him as an adolescent in Boise in the early 1970s. He was also transferred to a church north of Seattle and ordered to meet regularly with a therapist specializing in sex abuse.

Church and police investigations of those allegations were inconclusive.

Brunett said he had turned the new complaints, which occurred between 1968 and 1985, over to law enforcement authorities.

"It saddens me to know that many people have been disturbed or damaged by one of my priests,'' Brunett said in a statement.

A call to the King County prosecutor's spokesman late Friday was not returned.

An outspoken urban priest and a former city police chaplain, Cornelius drew national attention in the 1980s for championing the cause of black adoption and adopting 13 children himself.

Cornelius was first investigated by the archdiocese and police in 1989 for alleged past molestation of a teen-ager, after a church deacon raised concerns.

As in the 1996 investigation, no charges were filed.

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