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Former St. Monica pastor accused - Allegations of sexual abuse `credible" against priest on Island 1977 to 1990

By Mary L. Grady

The people of St. Monica parish on Mercer Island were informed at each Mass this past weekend that one of their former pastors, James Gandrau, is under investigation for child sexual abuse and will no longer be able to serve as a priest.

After the final blessing at Mass on Sunday evening, Rev. Dennis Kemp, the pastor at St. Monica, pulled a folded letter from his pocket to read aloud to his parishioners.

``This is the saddest thing I think I have ever had to do as a priest,'' he said of his task. ``I have been asked to read this letter to you without comment or commentary.''

The letter, from Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett, said that the abuse allegations against Gandrau were found to be credible and were proceeding. Brunett said the findings led to his decision to ``perpetually and completely restrict James Gandrau from the exercise of priestly ministry.''

Gandrau was the pastor of St. Monica parish on Mercer Island from 1977 through 1990. He served in other parishes and church capacities in Western Washington until his retirement in 2002.

Brunett announced the decision to the media on Monday after the parishes that Gandrau had served in had been informed of the matter over the weekend. The case has progressed through the archdiocese's own review board in accordance with the protocols established by the United States Catholic Bishops' Dallas Charter and Norms for the Protection of Children and Young People, as well as a review by the Vatican.

Further details about the allegations and when the alleged abuses occurred weren't available from the archdiocese Monday.

Maggie Stiles, longtime church secretary at St. Monica, said that many parishioners had called just to talk about what has happened.

``It is definitely important that parishioners feel like they can call just to talk about how they feel and what has happened,'' she said.

``We are extremely saddened,'' said parishioner Renee Kreilkamp, whose husband was a deacon at St. Monica for many years.

Gandrau served in five parishes within the Archdiocese of Seattle and was editor of the Catholic Northwest Progress newspaper from 1960 to 1977. He served at St. James Cathedral following his ordination in 1958 until 1965. Gandrau was in residence at St. Mark Parish, Shoreline, from 1965 until 1977 when he was named pastor of St. Monica, where he stayed until 1990. In 1991, he served as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish, Vancouver, Wash. Later that year, he was named pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish, Seattle, where he served until his retirement in 2002.

Gandrau is the fifth priest of the Archdiocese of Seattle to be permanently removed from ministry by the Vatican as a result of child sexual abuse charges. The archdiocese is currently waiting for the results of investigations on five other priests accused of child sexual abuse.

After folding the letter and placing it into his pocket, Father Kemp urged anyone who has any knowledge of clergy sexual abuse to call the archdiocese hotline. The number is 1-800-446-7762.

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