Church settles Snohomish priest’s sex abuse case for $1.7M

Rev. Dennis Champagne served at St. Michael parish from 1979 to 1999. He’s accused of abusing a child.

SNOHOMISH — The Archdiocese of Seattle announced Thursday it has reached a $1.7 million settlement involving a Snohomish priest accused of sexually abusing a child in the 1980s.

The Rev. Dennis Champagne served at St. Michael parish in Snohomish from 1979 to 1999. He was put on administrative leave in 2002, after the archdiocese received a complaint of sexual abuse.

In 2006, he was placed on “permanent prayer and penance,” a penalty by the Roman Catholic Church that removes a priest from public ministry, but stops short of removing his title.

“He is not permitted to administer sacraments, wear clerical attire, or present himself publicly as a priest,” a statement from the archdiocese says. “He is asked to pray for healing and to do penance on behalf of those who have been abused.”

Where or how the alleged abuse took place was not specified. By the time the abuse was reported, it was past the statute of limitations for a criminal investigation, according to the archdiocese. The statement from the archdiocese did not identify who would receive the settlement money.

The agreement was reached through mediation, archdiocese spokeswoman Helen McClenahan wrote in an email.

Champagne served as a parish priest at St. Michael from 1971 to 1979 before being named pastor there. After he left Snohomish, he served at St. John Bosco Parish in Pierce County and Immaculate Conception Parish in Steilacoom, until he was placed on administrative leave in June 2002.

After an investigation, a review board working under the archdiocese made the recommendation to remove Champagne from service. The board’s recommendation went to the archbishop, who forwarded it to the Vatican. The Vatican made the final decision to punish Champagne.

Champagne was among the 16 Snohomish County priests named in a list of Catholic clergy accused of sexually abusing children and teens. The list — released by the Archdiocese of Seattle in 2016 in a step toward further transparency and accountability — identifies priests who have died, who have been defrocked or who are living a life of “permanent prayer and penance.” Those on the list have either admitted to abusing children or the church has found the allegations against them were credible.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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