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Originally published May 13, 2009 at 11:50 AM | Page modified May 13, 2009 at 4:46 PM

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Former priest testifies he abused other boys in Seattle and kept it secret

A former priest who has admitted sexually abusing dozens of boys decades ago, resumed the witness stand in King County Superior Court Wednesday, saying he hid his behavior in an attempt to lead a normal life

Seattle Times staff reporter

Former Spokane Diocese priest Patrick O'Donnell testified Wednesday that in addition to the two men whose lawsuit is being tried here this week, he abused at least four other boys while serving at St. Paul's church in Seattle in the late 1970s.

But, he said, he didn't tell people in Seattle about the abuses, or of his abusive history.

"I guess I was hiding it, yes," and hoping to live a normal life, he said.

The trial opened Tuesday with lawyers for the two plaintiffs questioning O'Donnell, who has a long history of abusing boys and has admitted to molesting at least 30.

The plaintiffs are suing the Seattle Archdiocese, saying it failed to protect them from O'Donnell when they were children attending St. Paul's with their Catholic families.

Today, lawyers for the Archdiocese questioned O'Donnell to try to advance its argument that the archdiocese knew nothing of O'Donnell's troubled history, and that primary responsibility for him — even while he was temporarily in Seattle — lay with the Spokane Diocese.

O'Donnell said he told people in Seattle he'd come here to further his graduate studies and did not disclose that the Spokane bishop had sent him here for sexual-deviancy treatment.

As far as he knew, he said, St. Paul's didn't receive complaints about his conduct while he was in Seattle from 1976 to 1978.

He also said he didn't tell of his abusive past to other groups, including the University of Washington, where he pursued his doctorate, a West Seattle mental health center where he had an internship, nor the Washington state psychology board while he pursued a psychology license.

The trial is unusual in that the vast majority of lawsuits filed across the country involving abusive priests have resulted in out-of-court settlements. The case here is among only a few to go to trial nationwide and the first to go to trial against the Seattle Archdiocese.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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