Monroe priest on leave over sex-abuse allegation

MONROE — A priest at St. Mary of the Valley has been placed on administrative leave while the Archdiocese of Seattle investigates an allegation of sexual abuse involving a minor.

The allegation against the Rev. Michael OBrien surfaced last month, citing a 1969 incident in Vancouver, Wash., where OBrien was an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes.

“I don’t have any details about the incident at all,” said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the Archdiocese.

OBrien, who came to Monroe in 1999, was put on leave last week, Magnoni said. That was announced to the parishioners of the church over the weekend.

“I assure you that I have never sexually abused any minor,” OBrien wrote in a letter to the parishioners of St. Mary of the Valley.

The archbishop doesn’t have a choice but to follow the procedure, OBrien wrote.

“The Archbishop and I ask for your prayers for ourselves and our church,” he said.

OBrien, 68, was also placed on leave in 2004 after an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor in 1993. OBrien returned to the Monroe Catholic church after he was cleared.

The current allegation was reported to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Magnoni said. Law enforcement officials are not investigating the decades-old allegation.

It could take a few weeks or more to wrap up the investigation, Magnoni said. An independent review board, whose members are appointed by the archbishop, plans to review the result of the investigation. The board includes criminal justice and mental-health experts.

“We bring them because they have expertise,” Magnoni said.

OBrien was ordained to become a priest in May 1965, Magnoni said. Before coming to Monroe, he had served at several churches, including St. Michael in Snohomish and St. John in Vancouver, Wash.

The investigation will be conducted thoroughly, Archbishop Alex J. Brunett said in a statement.

“Based upon the findings, I will either reinstate Father OBrien as pastor or continue his administrative leave pending action by the Vatican,” Brunett said.

Brunett urged anyone who has knowledge of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Seattle to call 1-800-446-7762.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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