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Seattle archbishop’s new residence is an insult to the Catholic community

By Clark Kimerer, Colleen Kinerk and Terrence A. Carroll Special to The Times


One might assume that, at first blush, spending $2.4 million (plus remodeling costs) is not a huge outlay for a luxury view home in Seattle — at least for the privileged few who can afford it. Yet, the recent purchase of such a home by the Seattle Archdiocese for Archbishop Paul Etienne has caused serious concern among many clergy and lay Catholics. When he first arrived in Seattle in 2019, the archbishop declared, “I am a Pastor, not a Prince’’ in renouncing residence at a mansion on First Hill in Seattle that had been purchased by contributions from the laity more than a century earlier. He further claimed that the proceeds from the sale of the mansion would be used by the church for its social services. In recognition of that apparent austerity, the archdiocese renovated for $160,000 the rectory at St. Peter’s Church in the working class neighborhood of Beacon Hill. In announcing his intention to move to the new residence at a meeting of priests, the archbishop indicated a need for a “suitable” place to entertain priests and visiting bishops. Not only does this ignore the many closed parish rectories and Catholic schools but, mind you, this is from a prelate who regularly lets us know he is a follower of Pope Francis, who famously resides in a small apartment in the Vatican. As a further point of irony, the new residence in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood is within the recently closed, but historically diverse, St. Mary’s parish. This is the same parish, like many others, where a group of displaced, faithful church members’ proposal to manage the parish was rejected outright. The fact that St. Mary’s and many other parishes — including Our Lady of Mount Virgin — have been shuttered, due to reasons of economy and a serious shortage of priests, only underscores the insult to the Catholic community this house purchase represents. Unfortunately, this matter only serves to increase Archbishop Etienne’s credibility problems. Not too long after his arrival here, he refused to negotiate with a group of prominent Catholics from healourchurch.org, who called for the appointment of an independent group of lay professionals who would have confidential access to the records relating to the clergy sexual abuse scandal in order to facilitate a truth and reconciliation process so important to our church. Yet, serious questions remain regarding the “how and why” this scandal continues and an accounting to the laity for the source of funds for the settlements, attorney fees, etc. The Archdiocese has self reportedly paid $118.8 million in clergy abuse settlements representing 465 claims — since the 1980s with $688,000 in counseling since 2006. Many informed readers know the above is symbolic of the serious issues facing a church where many baptized Catholics, especially among the young, have turned away from its teachings and faith obligations. We hold to our belief in healing and reconciliation but time is short, the church is in crisis and action is required. A good start would be to put this luxury home back on the market and direct the proceeds as promised. The many good works and traditions of our church deserve no less. One cannot help but wonder what Pope Francis would make of this. Clark Kimerer is a lifelong Catholic, retired as assistant chief, Seattle Police Department in 2014, currently faculty with the Center for Homeland Security at the US Naval Postgraduate School and a co-founder of HealOurChurch.org Colleen Kinerk is a lifelong Catholic, Seattle attorney, community volunteer and co-founder of HealOurChurch.org Terrence A. Carroll is a lifelong Catholic, retired Superior Court Judge, first

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