Man kills self outside Kirkland church: Former altar boy had filed lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by priest
King County Journal, Feb. 21, 2003
by Noel S. Brady, Journal Reporter
KIRKLAND — A former alter boy who filed a civil suit alleging a priest sexually abused him at Holy Family Church in Kirkland 30 years ago was found outside the church Tuesday, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Kirkland police said a passerby found Jeffrey A. Alfieri, 43, of Seattle dead in his car about 12:30 a.m.
A suicide note was recovered, but police would not release its contents or comment on whether it mentioned the allegations of sexual abuse.
The King County Medical Examiner determined that a single bullet fired from a handgun into Alfieri’s head took his life, and that it was self-inflicted.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle said Thursday that the church was stunned by the suicide, which they suspect was connected to Alfieri’s allegations against Father Gerald Moffat, who was assigned to Holy Family Church in the 1970s.
“This event is a cruel reminder of our church’s past failures and how we have to be ever vigilant to the standards we’ve set for ourselves in the past decade-and-a-half to assure all our children are safe,” said Jackie O’Ryan of the Archdiocese.
Moffat could not be reached for comment. O’Ryan said the priest wasn’t speaking about the case.
In November, Alfieri filed a civil suit against the Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle and Moffat. In the suit, he stated that Moffat sexually abused him during church outings and church-related occasions in 1972 and 1973, beginning when Alfieri was 11 and ending when he was 13. Alfieri was an alter boy during that period.
“Father Moffat took advantage of (Alfieri) through the grooming process by using direct or indirect threats or promises to engage in various sexual acts with him,” the suit states.
It also alleges that the church knew or should have known of the abuse but failed to look for other possible victims within the church or do anything to address the human damage that was done.
“The sexual assaults on the plaintiff and the Archdiocese’s failure to take action to prevent the abuse inflicted extreme emotional injuries on the plaintiff,” the suit states.
In a written statement, Alfieri’s family in Redmond spoke of his abuse and their effort to hold the church and pedophilic priests accountable.
“We are concerned about the way issues of sexual abuse by priests and other people in positions of authority have been addressed in the past,” they said. “We believe there is a dire need to stay with the truth and to deal the issues openly and honestly.
“The sexual abuse of our son, Jeff Alfieri, happened many years ago. It came to light recently during a surgical procedure while he was under anesthetic.”
Alfieri’s attorney, Mary Fleck, would not elaborate on how a surgical procedure brought the allegations to light. That and other information might be disclosed later in the week, she said.
Fleck did, however, say that Alfieri had been suffering from depression, which forced him to quit his job and enter counseling.
Moffat was transferred to Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Snoqualmie in 1980 and worked there until 1992, according to a church website. Most recently he was assigned to St. Hubert Church in Langley, Wash.
When Alfieri presented his accusations against Moffat to Holy Family Church last summer, the Archdiocese removed Moffat from active ministry, O’Ryan said. The church also contacted civil authorities and provided Alfieri with pastoral care and counseling services.
Moffat hasn’t been charged with a crime, and no other complaints of sexual abuse by him have emerged, she said.
The case against Moffat is one of at least 13 lawsuits against the Seattle Archdiocese representing 29 people who say they were molested by priests when they were children.
“We know that the pain of abuse can be as real as the day it occurred, even though decades have past,” O’Ryan said. “Our hearts ache, not only for this senseless loss of Jeff’s life, but for the overwhelming burden he may have carried.”