- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) The Rev. John Cornelius hasn't been convicted of a crime but must meet several times each month with a Washington state parole officer one hired by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.
The priest, accused of molestation by at least three men and currently on administrative leave, has been observed by the officer since 1997 in his limited contacts with parishioners.
Archdiocese officials defend the monitoring the only such arrangement publicly disclosed in the United States as a way to ensure children's safety while retaining a valued servant. But even some of the most vocal critics in the Catholic Church's current sex-abuse crisis say putting a priest "on parole" sets an unsettling precedent.
"Protecting the children has got to be No. 1, but you also want to maintain the dignity of the people involved," said Svea Fraser of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group pressuring the Boston Archdiocese to change the way it handles abuse allegations.
The Seattle Archdiocese hired George Uhlman, a parole officer who routinely supervises sex offenders, to monitor Father Cornelius, 56, after an Idaho man accused the priest in 1996 of abusing him as an adolescent in Boise in the early 1970s.
Church and police investigations were inconclusive, and Father Cornelius denies all wrongdoing.
But the priest, a former city police chaplain and the adoptive father of 13 children, was reassigned from his inner-city Seattle ministry. He was barred from contact with children and required to meet regularly with Mr. Uhlman and a sex-abuse counselor.
The parole officer arrangement appears to be unique, said Mike Hurley, of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.
Dan Satterberg, chief deputy criminal prosecutor in King County and a member of a lay panel that advises Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett on sex-abuse policy, said hiring an outside monitor is an appropriate option.
"It's more than most employers would do, but they're a unique employer," he said.
Mr. Satterberg said monitoring a priest may be the best choice in cases where the statute of limitations has run out, or when the evidence does not support full removal but officials want to err on the side of caution.


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