Knowing, and not knowing, a Catholic pedophile

A day after my husband died in 1998, Sister Dolores Crosby showed up on my doorstep. She handed me a used paperback. It was “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by the rabbi Harold Kushner.

I considered Crosby a friend, although not a close one. From 1992 to 1999, she was the respected and well-liked principal of Everett’s Immaculate Conception &Our Lady of Perpetual Help School where my kids went to school.

And now? I’m stunned. That was my reaction to seeing Crosby’s name — the only woman on the list of 77 names released Friday by the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. According to the archdiocese, the listed people either admitted to sexually abusing children while serving as Catholic clergy or the church found that allegations against them were credible.

Crosby, who retired from Immaculate in 1999, was 73 when she died in 2007 in her native Spokane. The niece of famous crooner Bing Crosby, she had also worked at Holy Rosary School in Edmonds and St. Frances Cabrini School in Pierce County in the 1970s, and for 13 years at Our Lady of the Lake School in Seattle.

At least 40 others on the list have died. Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the archdiocese, did not reveal more about the allegations Tuesday.

“The one thing I can tell you is that the files were carefully reviewed by independent experts, and in every case for a name on the list the allegation or allegations were admitted, established or determined to be credible by them,” he said. “A deceased person’s reputation is very important, and the name would not be on the list unless an allegation was admitted, established or determined to be credible.”

For Crosby’s thousands of former students and their parents, there may be no clearer answers coming about her apparent abuse of a child or children. When? Where? To whom? I’m left looking for lessons between the lines on that long, infuriating list.

Trust no one. Everyone has a dark side. One can never truly know another person. Are those the lessons? How dispiriting.

I hope the list helps victims feel vindicated. If there are more victims, I hope they come forward seeking justice and compensation. Since the late 1980s, according to questions answered on the archdiocese website, about $74 million has been paid in settlements for 392 claims of sexual abuse of minors involving Catholic clergy in Western Washington.

It’s sad that the other names didn’t surprise me. In 2002, I shared my dismay with readers after it was revealed that the now-defrocked John Cornelius, who served at Everett’s Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches, had a history of abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s.

Was I blinded by sexism in never wondering about the safety of kids in Crosby’s presence? She was a good teacher, a fiercely competitive coach of our school’s speech team, and an upbeat woman who loved the Seattle Mariners.

My daughter and I attended Crosby’s memorial Mass at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Seattle. Among the speakers there was Eric Powers, one of Crosby’s former students and a radio personality on a Seattle hip-hop station.

I wrote Crosby’s Herald obituary. Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalists also wrote glowingly about her after she died. The P-I obituary was written by a former student.

My two older children are now talking about Crosby’s influence on them. Both were shocked to see her listed.

Crosby coached both for speech contests. My son, Bill, competed in a humor category, imitating comedian Bob Newhart’s driving-instructor bit — a piece Crosby chose for him.

Now a mom, my daughter, Jane, recalled Crosby’s high academic standards. Jane attended Catholic schools and universities from kindergarten through law school. With two sons now, she and her husband are exploring schools in Seattle. “I had a good experience with Catholic schools, but I’m not feeling it right now,” she said Tuesday.

Jane isn’t alone in struggling to reconcile good memories with the stain on Crosby’s reputation, while knowing little about why her former principal is on that list. “They’re still not being that transparent by not saying what it is,” she said. “I have this big question mark.”

I didn’t make it to Mass Sunday. My daughter did.

“One of the ladies did a special prayer for the victims,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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