US bishops head denies sexual abuse claim

Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has denied claims that he sexually abused a woman more than 40 years ago when she was a minor.

Diocesan attorney Greg Arpin said in a statement, "Bishop Skylstad categorically denies the accusation."

"I have kept the promise of celibacy that I made when I was ordained a deacon 47 years ago," Bishop Skylstad said in the statement. "I hope that the Spokane community will join me in praying for all those who have come forward to report sexual abuse. Please pray for me as well."

The statement said that the diocesan sexual abuse review board and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the US, have been advised of the accusation.

Media outlets reported news of the claim on 8 March, but the news stories said the claim was filed last December as part of the diocese's bankruptcy process.

Bishop Skylstad, 72, has been a priest since 1960 and a bishop since 1977. He is head of Spokane Diocese since 1990. He is currently in the second year of a 3-year term as head of the US Bishops' conference.

In November 2004 the Spokane Diocese entered bankruptcy protection proceedings to deal with dozens of lawsuits against the diocese over the alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests in the diocese.

The woman's claim that Bishop Skylstad abused her in the early 1960s was filed in the course of court-supervised diocesan outreach appealing to any additional victims of clerical sexual abuse in the diocese to come forward. The woman's name has not been made public.

Head of bishops' conference, accused of sexual abuse, denies claim (Catholic News Service 9/3/06)

Former teacher admits sex offences (Port Pirie Recorder 9/3/06)
Update shows 102 priests in Dublin accused of child abuse (catholicireland.net 9/3/06)
Former Catholic brother's trial adjourned for day (Radio New Zealand 9/3/06)
Woman Accuses Top Bishop Of Abuse (Washington Post 9/3/06)

10 Mar 2006