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The Rev. Patrick Howell, a member of the Oregon Province and rector of the Jesuit community at Seattle University, where Conroy worked for four years in the 1990s, said that most incidents of abuse happened decades ago and that the perpetrators are “under supervision and very restricted.”
“Safeguards were put in to protect children. We all go through a training each year, both for the archdiocese and Jesuit order,” he said. “If anything, we’re probably better qualified to reach out to people in need and to understand the different trials and crises that people go through.”
Those safeguards were not yet in place in 1986, when Conroy, three years out of college, informed a superior about a Roman Catholic priest whom he suspected of abusing a boy.
The Seattle Times reported in 2002 that Conroy wrote a letter in 1986 to then-Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen stating that a boy told him that he had been abused by a priest when he was 12 or 13 at a parish in Snohomish, Wash.
“It seems this young man, who is about 20 years old now, was one of many young boys, years ago, who spent a lot of time with Fr. Dennis Champagne in the rectory and on outings,” Conroy wrote in 1986, according to the Times. “It came to pass on one such occasion that Fr. Champagne made a homosexual pass at the young boy in question, momentarily molesting him. The youth fled immediately. Fr. Champagne never again made such a pass, and the young man never told anyone, with the exception of a friend, who asked me to talk to the victim, about this incident.”
Conroy told the Times in 2002 that the archdiocese never responded to him and that he did not follow up on the complaint. The archdiocese told the newspaper at the time that the boy did not want to go public with his complaint.
Champagne remained in active ministry until 2002, when he resigned after the victim came forward publicly.
Roll Call reported in 2008 that former House Chaplain Daniel Coughlin managed priests who had been accused of sexual abuse for the Chicago Archdiocese before coming to the House in 2000.