Newly released internal Roman Catholic Church personnel files on 126 priests accused of molesting children were supposed to shed light on the massive scandal still rocking the Los Angeles Archdiocese. But in the case of R. David Cousineau, the former director of the Seattle Children’s Home, they didn’t.
The files, dramatically unveiled Tuesday, Oct. 11, by Cardinal Roger Mahony as a show of church candor, indicate that Cousineau, 59, left the priesthood with a clean record. But Cousineau—a close ally of Cardinal Mahony until they reportedly had an angry falling-out (see “His Past Life,” March 31, 2004)—was sued by an alleged child-molestation victim in 1991, a year before he left the diocese to become leader of the Seattle Children’s Home, which cares for at-risk youths referred through courts or agencies.
The long-delayed release of the L.A. personnel files comes amid settlement talks with 560 alleged victims of priest sexual abuse. Church critics quickly pointed out that the documents lack important details. Cousineau’s brief file, for example, lists just his parish assignments from the 1970s through the 1980s, and his later directorship of welfare and charity services in L.A., concluding: “01/93, Fr. Cousineau resigned as Director of Catholic Charities for personal reasons.” He had already taken the Seattle job. “No allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. Resides in Seattle, WA. 07/08/94, Marries. 09/30/94, Suspended from ministry.”
The 1991 lawsuit by a former altar boy, who says he was sexually molested in the 1970s for three years starting at age 11, was later dropped but has since been refiled under a California law extending the statute of limitations. Cousineau resigned his Seattle position in 2003 under a financial cloud to become director of Holt International in Oregon, a worldwide child adoption agency. Seattle Children’s Home officials say they didn’t know Cousineau had been accused when they hired him, a complaint Holt officials later echoed. Under pressure, Cousineau resigned from the adoption agency last year. A second alleged victim, a woman who says she was molested for four years in the 1970s beginning at age 11, is also suing him. Cousineau couldn’t be reached for further comment but has denied both claims.
As director of the Seattle Children’s Home on Queen Anne, Cousineau raised funds by twisting the arms of some of the region’s wealthiest families—the Gateses, Allens, Nordstroms, and McCaws included. Yet after Cousineau departed, the charity struggled with a $2 million deficit over two years and is still recovering.