Assignment Record – Bishop William Stephen Skylstad

Summary of Case: William S. Skylstad was ordained a priest of the Spokane diocese in 1960. He was a minor seminary teacher and parish priest, and held several chancery positions, including Chancellor. He was appointed Yakima bishop in 1977, where he served until his appointment as bishop of Spokane in 1990. Skylstad was involved in a number of U.S.C.C.B. committees. He was elected U.S.C.C.B. vice-president in 2001 and U.S.C.C.B. president in 2004, a position he held until 2007. In Dec. 2005, Skylstad was accused of having sexually abused a minor female in the early 1960s. Skylstad denied the accusation. His lawyer hired an investigator who determined there was no evidence to support his accuser's claim. Skylstad retired in 2010, and served as apostolic administrator of Baker, OR Jan. 2011-March 2012.

: 1960
Appointed: Bishop of Yakima Feb. 22, 1977
Appointed: Bishop of Spokane April 17, 1990
Retired: June 30, 2010


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Spokane bishop wa Bernard Joseph Topel (1955-1978)

1961 Sacred Heart Pulman WA 2/2  
1960 1961 Washington State University   WA student Skylstad studied education and mathematics.
1960 1961 St. Anthony's Palouse WA   This was a mission of Sacred Heart in Pulman.
1961 1963 Bishop White Preparatory Seminary Spokane WA   Bishop White Seminary had 67-86 students.
1962 1966 Gonzaga University Spokane WA graduate student Skylstad earned a masters degree in Education.
1960 1974 Mater Cleri Seminary


A woman accused Skylstad in Dec. 2005 of having sexually abused her when she was a minor from Dec. 1961 to Dec.1964. She said the abuse took place at Gonzaga, and at St. Patrick's parish in Hillyard. Skylstad denied the accusation.

WA math teacher 1960-1968; rector 1968-1974 Mater Cleri had 68-46 students.
1968 1974 St. Joseph Colbert MA pastor  
1971 1976 Dean of Northeast Deanery Spokane WA    
1976 1977 Chancellor Spokane WA    
1974 1977 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Spokane WA


Assistant priest was Rev. Patrick G. O'Donnell.


Assumption of the BVM had a school with 220-230 students.

O'Donnell sexually abused at least 65 boys in the mid 1970s and early 1980s, two of whom are known to have taken their own lives. Skylstad later insisted he did not know what was going on with O'Donnell and his victims in the rectory the two men shared. O'Donnell lived in the basement, and a number of his victims have stated they would hear Skylstad announce his presence when entering the residence upstairs by saying, "It's just little old me."

Skylstad was appointed Bishop of Yakima on Feb. 22, 1977, and installed May 12, 1977.


Skylstad replaced Nicolas Eugene Walsh as Yakima bishop (1977-1990)

1990 Bishop Yakima WA   Skylstad was appointed Bishop of Spokane April 17, 1990, and installed on April 27, 1990.
2001 2007 U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Washington DC

Vice-President 2001-2004; President 2004-2007.

Other U.S.C.C.B. roles: chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Social Development and the Ad Hoc Committee on Bishops’ Life and Ministry; member of the bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, the Committee on Science and Human Values and the Task Force on Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice.

An investigator hired by Skylstad's lawyer determined that there was no evidence to support the 2005 accusation that Skystad had sexually abused a girl in the early 1960s.


Skylstad succeeded Lawrence Harold Welsh as Spokane bishop (1990-2010)

2010 Bishop Spokane WA   Skystad retired June 30, 2010
June 30, 2010 Jan. 24, 2011 Retired        
Jan. 24, 2011 March 8, 2012 Apostolic Administrator Baker OR    
March 8, 2012   Retired        


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1961-1978)

Woman Accuses Top U.S. Bishop of Sexual Abuse, USA Today , March 8, 2006
Skylstad Timeline, The Spokesman-Review, March 8, 2006
Skylstad Denies Claim of Sex Abuse in 1960s, Woman's filing part of bankruptcy case, By John Stucke and Virginia De Leon, Spokesman-Review, March 9, 2006 list of U.S. Bishops Accused of Abuse, April 14, 2008
U.S.C.C.B. website, June 30, 2010
Compensating for the sins of the fathers, By Michael Newall, National Catholic Reporter, November 10, 2006

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Skylstad's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on Sept. 24, 2012