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Ashwell ejected from priesthood

Barry Ashwell, former pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Oak Harbor, was defrocked by Pope Benedict XVI over child sexual abuse allegations, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced this week.

Ashwell, 62, could not be reached for comment, but he has adamantly denied any wrongdoing in the past. Ashwell was pastor of St. Augustine from 1978 to 2000.

Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the Archdiocese, said Ashwell was dismissed from the clerical state, or laicized, which means he can no longer function in any way as a priest. He’s not allowed to perform last rites, marriages or other sacraments.

Under federal law, Ashwell will retain his retirement plan.

The Archdiocese placed Ashwell on administrative leave in September 2001 after an initial allegation of sexual abuse.

Magnoni said four men have accused Ashwell of sexually abusing them as children. The Archdiocese has settled one lawsuit involving Ashwell and two others are pending. Three of the alleged incidents occurred in the 1970s, before Ashwell came to Oak Harbor.

One man claimed Ashwell sexually abused him in Oak Harbor between 1984 and 1985, according to a lawsuit filed in July.

“I again express my deep regret for any harm to victims of clergy child sexual abuse and extend my personal apology to them and their families,” Archbishop Alex Brunett said in a press release.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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