Priest accused of abuse punished

A former Everett priest accused of molesting at least a dozen teenage boys and young men elsewhere has been defrocked.

The Vatican concurred with the recommendations of Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett and a church committee that John Cornelius be removed from the priesthood, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced Monday.

There is no indication that Cornelius molested anyone while he was a priest at Everett’s Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches from 1997 to 2002, archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said. The alleged acts occurred in Boise, Idaho, and King County, mostly in the 1970s, beyond the statute of limitations, he said.

Judy Romaneschi, 65, who has attended Immaculate Conception her entire life, felt a sense of relief at the news.

“I think there’s closure now,” the Everett woman said. “It is sad that this has happened in our time and in our church, but we rebuild. My way of dealing with it is to look at the church as a gift given to us by Christ and to the Apostles, and we are imperfect mortals who are tending it.”

“I think this is probably the best thing,” said Immaculate Conception parishioner Tom Borgford, 76, of Marysville. “There’s no way to justify what he did.”

Cornelius was transferred to Everett after a 1996 church and police investigation of a molestation yielded inconclusive results. A state parole officer hired by the archdiocese monitored him here.

Magnoni said Cornelius lives in the Puget Sound area. He was unavailable for comment.

Allegations surfaced publicly about Cornelius in April 2002. He resigned from the active ministry in May 2002, just as Brunett was about to remove him.

At the time, Cornelius released a statement that expressed sorrow “for what I have done.” But he has never directly admitted the charges are true, Magnoni said.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that if John Cornelius would admit guilt, it would bring closure to this and help build faith and trust people have in the church,” Magnoni said.

“The archdiocese extends its regrets and deep sorrow to all the victims and recognizes that whenever these charges are made public, they suffer again,” he said. “Archbishop Brunett wants them to know they are very much in his prayers.”

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