June 12, 2003

The Star

By: Stephen Mercer

A former Coulee Dam Catholic priest recently became the subject of a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane when three Seattle brothers accused him of sexual abuse. 

A legal complaint filed on May 15 in King County Superior Court states that Bernard “Benno” Oosterman, a former priest at Coulee Dam’s St. Benedict’s Catholic Church and Wilbur’s Sacred Heart Church, “engaged in unpermitted and harmful sexual contact” with the three brothers.

St. Benedict’s has since consolidated with St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Grand Coulee.

The three plaintiffs go by the initials W.M., H.M. and B.M. in court documents.

H.M., the spokesperson for the brothers, said he and his two brothers’ sexual abuse started at Sacred Heart in Wellpinit in 1967 when he was about 8 years old, while Oosterman was the priest in Coulee Dam and Wilbur. It lasted until 1975, he said.

Born to Dutch parents in Indonesia, Oosterman eventually entered the United States after having been in a Japanese prison camp with his mother, brothers and sisters for four years.

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