Archdiocese sued over former Holy Rosary priest

In March 2006, we reported on Holy Rosary‘s announcement that Father Jeffrey Sarkies had resigned amid allegations of “improprieties.” No details were revealed, and Sarkies eventually moved out of state (after a going-away party mentioned on a site set up by supporters; we later mentioned this website where he still writes weekly). Tonight, the P-I reports the Seattle Archdiocese is being sued by a 28-year-old man who claims the priest “took sexual advantage of him” (the P-I story’s phrase) in 2004. ADDED THURSDAY MIDDAY: Since this has generated discussion and questions, we found the court documents online and are linking to them here. No confidential information appears to be included, nor anything very detailed, but just so anyone interested can see how the lawsuit is written, if you are interested in information beyond the article to which we linked above. The suit is against Fr. Sarkies as well as the Archdiocese.

35 Replies to "Archdiocese sued over former Holy Rosary priest"

  • OP January 28, 2009 (9:11 pm)

    Naturally the article fails to mention that the young man in question has a history of mental health issues. Also, given the Church’s recent history with defrocked priests and numerous lawsuits, and the fact that Sarkies was near retirement, that the Church may just be capitulating and appeasing the accuser in order to avoid yet another public and media-driven flogging….

    SOP for the PI

  • Joey January 28, 2009 (9:24 pm)

    He “took sexual advantage of him” when he was 24 years old?


  • whoRwe2judge? January 28, 2009 (9:30 pm)

    who are we to judge either side of this case?

  • cmc January 28, 2009 (9:51 pm)

    Of course defending those catholic priests once again!!

  • ellenater January 28, 2009 (9:54 pm)

    That is possible, actually. People trusts their priests when they are most vulnerable and are certainly not expecting a sexual advance. Priests are in positions of power. Misusing that power for sexual purposes is “taking sexual advantage”.

    As someone who is relatively new to the Catholic Church I was delighted and relieved to discover that Catholics within the church are horrified by this and doing everything in their power to stop it. It’s unforgivable really. They are coming between a person and their god. That is SO %^@* up!!

  • ellenater January 28, 2009 (9:55 pm)

    note, above ‘that is possible’ was directed at Joey. It’s SICK to defend the priests. siiiiiiiiiick.!

  • Joey January 28, 2009 (10:20 pm)

    We’re due for another story about public school teachers sleeping with little boys.

    Feel free to chime in then.

  • Gina January 28, 2009 (10:38 pm)

    This may possibly be a case of someone who felt they were “spurned” lashing out and sueing. Puzzle pieces seem to fit.

  • Joey January 28, 2009 (10:48 pm)

    Innocent until proven guilty(unless you’re a Catholic priest).

  • Toad January 28, 2009 (10:56 pm)

    You’re all just playing politics with someone’s life. The only reason you’re making snap decisions and verdicts is based on your political (vis a vis religious) affiliation. Hopefully the jury won’t be as biased as you disgraces to humanity.

  • *t* January 28, 2009 (11:04 pm)

    Wait, ellenater, it’s sick to defend all priests, no matter the circumstances? Right out of the gate he must be guilty because he’s a priest?

    Wow. That’s sweet.

    This is a complex, complex story and I am incredibly saddened to see it resurface, and the first rush of comments here pretty much sum up why. Father Sarkies was a member of this community since he graduated from Holy Rosary school as a child, and he deserves a fair hearing as much as anyone in this country does. Please.

  • Jim January 28, 2009 (11:18 pm)

    Of course Catholics are horrified. But even if the worst is true I don’t know if I would use the term “unforgiveable.”

  • Judy January 29, 2009 (6:06 am)

    Boy, will I ever be happy when this Archbishop retires! It can’t be too soon. He was very cold and decisive in his handling of the situation and never took into account the needs of both Mr. Johns and Fr. Sarkies. It was all a business decision. Period.

  • JimmyG January 29, 2009 (6:39 am)

    Hate to break it to you Judy, but the Catholic Church operates like a business because it’s in their business interests to do so. They do what they have to in order to protect their vast assets.

    I hope the truth involving this situation comes out and to the person above saying the victim in this situation has nemtal health issues–what exactly does that mean? That he can’t be a victim because of that? Wow!

  • JimmyG January 29, 2009 (6:40 am)

    Obviously nemtal=mental.

  • Smitty January 29, 2009 (6:49 am)

    @Toad, you are absolutely right. The burden of proof is on the 23 year-old man (28 now) and his lawyers to prove sexual misconduct.

    Time will tell if he is just making a play for cash or not. I know absolutely zero about this case (and I am gnostic) but I do know that in cases like these you are assumed guilty until proven innocent – which it’s sad.

    My immediate thoughts are:

    1) Why wait four years?
    2) 23 years old, really?

  • OP January 29, 2009 (9:08 am)

    Thank you for making sensible points, Smitty.

  • Admiral Lady January 29, 2009 (10:01 am)

    Took sexual advantage of him when he was 23-24? Hmm…. Uh yea, I believe that one. Hey Ellen, it’s sick to defend the Catholic Church?! WTF is wrong with you. I happen to be Catholic, and although this kind of crap makes me angry, I will always defend a church that has done more good than harm in 2000 years!! It’s more than just a business.

  • Huindekmi January 29, 2009 (10:39 am)

    So many of the Catholic Churches issues along these lines could be solved by allowing priests to be married and/or allowing gays into the priesthood.

    Priests are human (just like the rest of us) and trying to suppress that sexual urge is incredibly difficult. By declaring it a sin for priests to have sex, it doesn’t actually cause the urge to go away – it just forces it into back shadows and riskier behavior.

    What is so wrong with allowing our priests to model a strong, committed, loving relationship for their congregation?

    Heck, maybe the catholic church wouldn’t be having such a hard time finding people willing to become priests.

  • Meghan January 29, 2009 (10:51 am)

    I was raised in a devoutly Catholic family. And while I personally happen to think the Catholic Church is one of the most corrupt and evil institutions in history, I do think it’s a major s-t-r-e-t-c-h to hold a priest responsible for sexual abuse when the “victim” was 23 or 24 years old UNLESS he is determined to have been mentally ill. No matter what your personal maturity level (or religioius beliefs), once you reach the age of consent, any consentual sexual relationship you have is your responsiblity. This is totally different that the sexual abuse of young children, which as we all know, the Catholic Church did their best to cover up and hide from for decades before they were finally forced to confront it (and pay millions upon millions of their members’ hard earned money to pay off legal claims). Two of my brothers were sexually abused and sodomized by our local priest when they were 12 or 13 and even though my mother filed a complaint to the Bishop (who himself was removed from his position for sexually abusing boys years later), she got nowhere because the priest insisted she was crazy. He was moved around and went on to molest boys for another 15 years. Nice church!

  • ellenater January 29, 2009 (11:25 am)

    First, I wrote the above when I was tired. I didn’t mean that the priest is automatically guilty. Not at all. And maybe the charges shouldn’t be sexual misconduct. But there could be an abuse of power situation here. I also wasn’t singling Joey out. (sorry Joey). Just responding specifically to his comment. That is all I meant. As far as it relating to the church, all churches and institutions are flawed and I don’t think it’s about Catholics at all. I was refreshed by the people I have met and their attitudes on the matter. Meant it as a compliment. The only thing that is to me a very important issue (that is well documented IMO) is the church’s history of denial and of not addressing things properly. To me, that is a given. That is why I’m excited to see change happening from within.
    I don’t know the priest and have never heard of him. I have a heard time believing, however, that of he weren’t guilty at all, he wouldn’t be dismissed. If I’m wrong, correct me. But I do feel very strongly that an abuse of power can take place between a legal adult and a someone in a position of power. Obviously this is a hot issue but there is no need for attacks.

    Also, Meghan, I am sorry. The saddest thing about your story to me is that the one place that should be sacred and should be a place of healing is now the source of horrible anguish to your family. I don’t know how someone is supposed to get over something like that or how they are supposed to heal. There are a lot of things I love and relate to personally about the Catholic Church. But I don’t think what they did is forgivable. At least not yet.

  • WSB January 29, 2009 (11:52 am)

    For what it’s worth, I have added to the post above a direct link to the lawsuit. It is not particularly detailed, nor does it include any confidential information, so we obtained it via public records online and reuploaded it (a system which is available to any member of the public, by the way, through King County’s ECR Online, provided you have the case number and provided the documents are public), for anyone interested in seeing how the plaintiffs worded it, since otherwise we were just going by another media source’s article, there it is.

  • nuni January 29, 2009 (12:05 pm)

    This is too bad. My husband and I went to Fr. Sarkies as part of our premarital counseling in 2005. My husband would go to his office alone on occasion as well prior to that for other things and never EVER experienced anything but the utmost professionalism from him.

  • CMT January 29, 2009 (12:35 pm)

    I go to Holy Rosary Church and I, along with many others, was very saddened when Father Sarkies was removed. He impacted many people’s lives in a positive way. I hope very much that he did not take advantage of the plaintiff and if he did not, that he is vindicated. I also agree with the poster above that the requirement of celibacy for priests creates a lot of problems and, among other things, allowing priests to marry would be very positive.

  • Ms Pam January 29, 2009 (1:04 pm)

    This is an extremely sad situation, either way. If Mr. Sarkies is guilty how disgusting! If he is innocent, how sad that with almost the “snap of someones fingers” a mans career/life can just be forever changed NEGATIVELY.

    Either way, it is time for the Catholic church to make changes. Instead of just moving “problem” Priests from one parish to another is so so wrong just because they don’t want to deal with the “fallout”.

  • Gina January 29, 2009 (5:06 pm)

    What also needs to be mentioned is that Father Sarkies held some radical views that were not popular with the powers that be. (women allowed on the altar, girls allowed to be altar servers, homosexuals allowed to receive communion, anti war views and also was aligned with Archbishop Hunthausen politically.) Not very popular with mainstream Catholics.

  • Kristina January 29, 2009 (5:39 pm)

    I don’t know anything about the Father in question. or about the accuser, so I’m not particularly taking sides. However, I am horrified that people think that because the victim was 23 years old that invalidates the claim. It is possible to rape anyone, or to use pressure tactics and to wield power, sexual and otherwise, over individuals regardless of age. Not only children are abused. Age is not a part of it. I’m glad that the victim wasn’t a child, but the victim’s age is not relevant.

    Reading Father Sarkie’s blog did not make me favor his innocence…. but I hope a jury will decide, and I’ll leave it in their hands.

  • Smitty January 29, 2009 (6:05 pm)

    90% of the Catholics I know are Democratics, interestingly enough.

  • jschu January 29, 2009 (6:33 pm)

    Hang in there Father Sarkies. Let the chips fall where they may. If the person was abused at 23- or 24 years of age. I don’t understand. He was an adult. what is going on?

  • Jim January 30, 2009 (8:17 am)

    I’m not sure where people get the idea that generalizations about the Catholic church okay. When you generalize from an individual to a group it’s called prejudice.

  • Ani Bee January 30, 2009 (9:34 pm)

    I am saddened by the news of Fr. Jeffrey Sarkies. When I was a parishioner of St. Alphonsus in the late 70’s, I knew Fr. Sarkies to be a priest of great talents, kindness and strength. He was there for everyone. He baptised two of my children. I am no longer Catholic, but still treasure what he created as sacred. Fr. Sarkies always supported his parishioners, women, girls, men, boys, no matter what orientation to come and celebrate the joy of God’s word.

    It is especially sad that when one is a priest or minister, teacher, etc that the automatic response is that the person is tried in the press and presented as guilty before the facts are heard in a court of law. On that note, after reading through the lawsuit posted through the link, they name Fr. Sarkies as Fr. John Sarkies, in the body of the lawsuit, which is an error. Also, if someone starts to put into print that someone has a ‘history of behavior,’ then they need to be able to back it up – otherwise, I understand such to be libelous behavior which could also constitute a lawsuit.

    Twenty-four – we can all be a shambles at any age under certain circumstances –

    Harm none…. I do believe that the truth will will out. Blessings to all those involved that this might be resolved in a positive manner.

    Fr. Sarkies will always remain in my memory as a priest who was father, brother, friend, priest to all those he touched with his spirituality and intellect. He is a brilliant writer giving great insights into the very breath of the New Testament readings.

  • humanist Nulu January 31, 2009 (7:40 am)

    …”father, brother, friend, priest to all those he touched with his spirituality and intellect.”
    Fine with that.
    But when the touch becomes physical?
    Are the clergy,
    with their vows of chastity,
    somehow less bound to sexual morality
    than doctors, shrinks, teachers and even politicians?

  • Cassie February 1, 2009 (12:37 pm)

    Nulu, are you saying he is guilty?
    Sounds like you have already decided.

  • Ani Bee February 1, 2009 (8:20 pm)

    not physical touch…. if you wish to read such into my words it truly saddens me that your mind is bent to deliberately twist the expression of support. I find your words offensive.

  • humanist Nulu February 2, 2009 (10:31 am)

    Are the clergy,
    with their vows of chastity,
    somehow less bound to sexual morality
    than doctors, shrinks, teachers and evenpoliticians?

    Yes, Catholic zealots and apologists can find my questions just as offensive as their character references are to me. Mine however are questions, while theirs are claims. “I never saw him act inappropriately, ergo he can not act inappropriately!”
    He was not tried in the press first. He resigned.
    As the original story stated, the “priest resigned amid allegations of “improprieties.” The Priest RESIGNED years before the lawsuit.
    I did not say the priest was guilty but did he so much as admit guilt through such actions?
    Maybe it was between God and his servant, the priest. And God told him to resign. Was God saying he was guilty?

Sorry, comment time is over.