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Church settles abuse claim

Former Juneau priest maintains he is innocent of allegations

Posted: Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Juneau has agreed to pay $175,740 to a former Juneau resident who alleges he was sexually abused by one of its priests more than two decades ago.

Joel Post, who now lives in Duluth, Minn., alleged the Rev. Michael Nash sexually abused him numerous times between 1979 and 1982, according to a statement from the diocese.

Nash's civil attorney, Louis Menendez, said the former Juneau priest is attending law school at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., and was neither involved in nor notified of the settlement. Nash denies any wrongdoing, "without equivocation," Menendez added.

He said Nash would have been happy to address the charges openly in court.

"The American Catholic Church should not be viewed as a slot machine that pays off on allegations. ... The American Catholic Church deserves more," Menendez said.

Bishop Michael Warfel, head of the diocese, was not available for comment. A statement from his office said the settlement was not an admission of liability, but an agreement to avoid litigation against the church.

The statement described the settlement as "a compromise of a disputed claim."

Post could not be located for comment. He filed a formal complaint against the diocese on Nov. 22, 2002. He claimed he was abused from age 11 to 15, after moving to Juneau from Wisconsin with his family in 1978. Nash headed the youth group for the church at the time, according to Post's statement.

Nash came to Alaska to enter the seminary in 1978, according to information he supplied the Empire in 2002. He was a deacon with St. Paul's Catholic Church until his ordination as a priest in 1980. He ministered in Juneau, Ketchikan and Petersburg.

When the church received Post's formal complaint, Nash was ministering at the Cathedral of the Nativity. He denied the accusations in a written statement to the Empire and voluntarily stepped aside while the allegations were being investigated.

Post requested financial compensation late last year to cover physical and emotional harm caused to him, according to the diocese statement. The settlement was determined through a mediation process proposed by the diocese.

Money to cover the settlement will come from a contingency fund set up by the diocese.

A local lay committee looking into the allegations and possible disciplinary actions sent its findings to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. According to Warfel's office, the diocese is still waiting to hear from the Vatican.

Canon law prevents Nash from acting as a practicing priest while he is the subject of a Vatican investigation.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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