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Sex abuse claims against former Catholic youth minister in Kirkland

Allegations of sex abuse against members of the Catholic Church have stretched around the world.

The latest comes from a former Kirkland resident who claims he was sexually abused by James Funnell, a former youth minister at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Kirkland, during the mid to late 1980s.

The lawsuit, filed March 5 in King County Superior Court, seeks damages from the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle for alleged negligence in failing to prevent the child sexual abuse.

“As in every other case, we take these issues very seriously,” said Greg Magnoni, a spokesperson for the Seattle Archdiocese. “We hope to reach an amicable settlement on this issue.

This is not a new case and it came to light because the Archdiocese took the steps necessary to address the alleged abuse at the time.”

According to the complaint, the victim was around 12 years old when the abuse began. The man claims that the abuse occurred at the church and at Funnell’s home from about 1983 to 1987.

According to court documents, the victim was “conditioned to comply with James Funnell’s direction and to view and respect him as a person of authority in spiritual, moral and ethical matters ... using direct or indirect threats or promises, to engage in various sexual acts.”

“This is another sad case of lasting emotional damage from childhood sexual abuse,” said attorney James S. Rogers of Seattle, who represents the victim.

The complaint states that the Archdiocese did not properly investigate Funnell’s background and upon learning of Funnell’s activities, the Archdiocese failed to act in a timely manner. The complaint also asserts that the Archdiocese did not seek out victims to mitigate the damage that it inflicted.

“When the case was reported to the Archdiocese of Seattle, Mr. Funnell was immediately removed from his position, the authorities were notified and, as a result, charges were filed in the case and he was subsequently terminated,” said Magnoni.

Funnell was convicted in 1989 of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes in an unrelated incident.

“With front page articles in newspapers around the world concerning the Pope and the clergy, sexual abuse of boys in Germany and the sexual abuse of deaf boys in Wisconsin, there is still no end in sight to this problem,” said Rogers.

Magnoni completely disagrees with the assertion that here is no end in sight or the relationship other issues.

“I think a review of the record will show that this case was handled by the Archdiocese of Seattle exactly as it should have been and the implication that it somehow fits a “pattern” is absolutely false.” said Magnoni.

Rogers said that the case is still in the discovery process.

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