Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vatican OKs removal of Washington priest

SEATTLE - The Vatican has approved the permanent removal from ministry of a priest accused of child sexual abuse by a man who later committed suicide.

The Seattle Archdiocese on Monday announced the action against Gerald Moffat "as a result of sex-related misconduct allegations."

Moffat had been on administrative leave since July 2002, when allegations against him began to surface.

Jeff Alfieri, who publicly accused Moffat of abusing him on church trips when Alfieri was a boy in the 1970s, committed suicide in 2003 in the parking lot of Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland, the parish where the abuse occurred.

Last summer, the archdiocese announced a settlement in which it paid $600,000 to Alfieri's beneficiaries.

"I am deeply sorry for harm to any victim of clergy child sexual abuse, and my hope is that this decision will bring resolution, healing and closure for all involved," Archbishop Alex Brunett said Monday in a statement.

Moffat, now 74, served as an assistant in several parishes in the archdiocese, including St. James Cathedral in Seattle from 1956-1960, and Holy Family from 1972-1975. He was pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Snoqualmie from 1980-1992. In 1992, he was named pastor of St. Hubert Church in Langley, where he served until he was placed on administrative leave in July of that year.

Moffat was not immediately reachable for comment.

Washington honors four citizen heroes

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Awarding Washington's Medal of Valor for the first time, Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature on Monday honored four heroes who risked their lives to save others.

Jim Swett of Sedro Woolley, Greg Meinhold of Everett, and Travis Jackson and Dennis Kinsey of Clark County all qualified for the medal, established in 1999.

"These four citizens, emblematic of 'do unto others,' have set a new bar for citizen heroism in our state," Gregoire told lawmakers in a joint session. "They have renewed our faith, that in the heat of the moment, citizens will step up."

Swett, a trucker, was returning from a delivery in 2004 when he encountered a gruesome crash on Interstate 5 near Smokey Point. After smashing a window out of a Suburban and pulling a woman to safety, Swett, 68 years old at the time, attached a tow rope to his truck and pulled the SUV away from the burning wreck. He then pried open a door with a crowbar and rescued two children from the back seat.

In 2001, Meinhold was driving along Silver Lake in Everett when he noticed a man flailing in the middle of the lake. The former Boy Scout drove to a nearby restaurant to grab a display canoe. Needing an oar, Meinhold burst into the restaurant's kitchen and grabbed the most appropriate paddle - a cookie sheet. Meinhold managed to propel the canoe to the middle of the lake to save the drowning man as well as the man's dog.

Jackson and Kinsey came together in January 2005 to save a man stuck in a burning Jeep off of state Route 500 in Orchards, near Vancouver. After calling for help, Jackson used a fire extinguisher to beat back the flames, then pried open the jammed car door with his bare hands. Kinsey helped pull the man from the vehicle and then cared for the driver until emergency crews arrived.

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