US Jesuits pay $166,000,000 to sex abuse victims in Oregon – William Yardley

Jesuit Logo“That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same;…”Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, in Rule No. 13 of Rules for Thinking with the Church

Ignatius of Loyola & Francis Xavier: SEATTLE — A Roman Catholic religious order in the Northwest has agreed to pay $166 million to more than 500 victims of sexual abuse, many of whom are American Indians and Alaska Natives who were abused decades ago at Indian boarding schools and in remote villages, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Friday.

The settlement, with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, known as the Northwest Jesuits, is the largest abuse settlement by far from a Catholic religious order, as opposed to a diocese, and it is one of the largest abuse settlements of any kind by the Catholic Church. The Jesuits are the church’s largest religious order, and their focus is education. The Oregon Province includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

“There is a huge number of victims, in part because these Native American communities were remote and vulnerable, and in part because of a policy by the Jesuits, even though they deny it, of sending problem priests to these far-off regions,” said Terry McKiernan of Bishopaccountability.org, a victims’ advocacy group that tracks abuse cases.

The province released a statement saying it would not comment on the settlement announced by the plaintiffs’ lawyers because it was involved in bankruptcy litigation. The bankruptcy stems from previous abuse settlements, totaling about $55 million, reached several years ago. A small group of victims and their lawyers have been negotiating the current settlement for more than a year as part of the province’s bankruptcy-ordered restructuring.

An insurer for the province is paying the bulk of the settlement, which still is subject to approval by hundreds of other victims and by a federal judge.

St.  Mary's Mission Church at OmakJohn Allison, a lawyer based in Spokane, Wash., represented many clients who were abused in the late 1960s and early 1970s while they were students at St. Mary’s Mission in Omak, Wash., near the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes, one of the largest reservations in the country. The Jesuits ran the St. Mary’s school until the 1970s, when federal policies began to encourage more Indian control. St. Mary’s is now closed, though its building stands beside a new school.

Mr. Allison noted that English was not the native language for some of the students at the time of the abuse. Some were 6 and 7 years old and came from difficult family situations. Some were orphans. At the same time, many Jesuit priests were not happy to have been assigned to such remote places.

“They let down a very vulnerable population,” Mr. Allison said.

Lawyers representing some of the victims initially suggested they would go after assets of some of the region’s large Jesuit institutions, including Gonzaga University and Seattle University. But the settlement does not involve them, and their future vulnerability is unclear. Mr. Allison said some of the accused priests, now in their 80s, live at Gonzaga under strict supervision.

Alberta Sena and Dorothea SkalickyMr. Allison and another lawyer, Leander James, of Idaho, said the settlement required the province to eventually apologize to the victims.

One of the plaintiffs, Dorothea Skalicky, was living on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in northern Idaho in the 1970s when she said she was abused by a Jesuit priest who ran Sacred Heart Church, in Lapwai. Ms. Skalicky, now 42, said that her family lived across from the church for several years, and that she was abused from age 6 to 8.

“My family looked up to him,” Ms. Skalicky said of the priest, who is deceased. “He was somebody high up that was respected by the community and my parents.” The church, she said, “was supposed to be a safe place.” – The New York Times, New York, March 25, 2011

Father John pays up.

Jesuits pay record $166.1 million in child sex abuse case

Clarita Vargas &  Blaine TamakiThe Society of Jesus’ Pacific Northwest unit and its insurers have agreed to pay a record $166.1 million to about 470 people who were sexually and psychologically abused as children by Jesuit priests from the 1940s to the 1990s, the victims’ attorneys said Friday.

Blaine Tamaki, an attorney in Yakima, Washington, described the payment as “the largest settlement between a religious order and abuse victims in the history of the United States.”

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is now in federal bankruptcy court in Portland, Oregon, the attorneys said. Insurers will pay $118 million, and the Jesuits’ Pacific Northwest province will pay $48.1 million, Tamaki said.

Fr. Pat Lee, SJ“The $166.1 million is the largest settlement by a religious order in the history of the world,” Tamaki said. “Over 450 Native American children … were sexually abused repeatedly, from rape to sodomy, for decades throughout the Northwest. Instead of teaching these children how to read and write, Jesuit priests were teaching them distrust and shame.

“Instead of teaching the Native American children the love of God, these Jesuit pedophile priests were molesting these young children,” Tamaki told reporters.

The Rev. Patrick Lee, provincial superior of the Jesuits’ Oregon Province, declined to comment on the settlement, citing in a written statement the ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

“The province continues to work with the creditors committee to conclude the bankruptcy process as promptly as possible,” Lee said.

Jesuits are the world’s largest order of Catholic priests and are considered the most educated in the priesthood as they run prestigious universities, said Patrick Wall, a consultant to the victims’ attorneys and a former priest and Benedictine monk who’s now an expert on Catholic clergy abuse.

Francis Xavier SJJesuits number about 19,000 worldwide, according to the Society of Jesus in the United States.

The settlement also asks the Jesuits to provide a written apology to the victims, Tamaki said.

The abuse primarily took place in Jesuit-operated mission schools and boarding schools on Indian reservations in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, and some of the children were abused by Jesuits serving in dioceses throughout the Northwest, Tamaki said.

Most of the abuse occurred in the 1960s, so many of the alleged victims are now in their late 40s and early 50s, Tamaki said.

None of the 57 Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse by the victims has been charged with any crimes, Tamika said. He added that less than a handful each of Jesuit brothers and nuns in the Jesuit schools also are accused of child sexual abuse by the victims.

“This same province has settled claims before, but this is the big whopper,” Tamika told CNN.

The Jesuits’ Pacific Northwest province filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2009 after Tamaki filed 21 federal lawsuits against them in Washington and after another attorney, John Manly of Newport Beach, California, had spent years filing other child sex abuse lawsuits against the Jesuits’ regional unit, the attorneys said.

“There is no question that the number of cases filed, and the establishment of prolific abuse, triggered the bankruptcy,” Manly said in a statement. He represented almost 200 claims out of Alaska.

During the press conference Friday, Manly told reporters that the settlement was “a small step for this country recognizing the holocaust that occurred to Native Americans at these boarding schools.

“What you had at these boarding schools was nothing less than a Slobodan Milosevic-style cultural assassination using rape as an offensive weapon to control people,” he said. “They can deny it, they can pretend like it didn’t happen, they can minimize it, but that’s what it is.”

One abuse victim, Katherine (Hansen) Mendez, 53, was abused as a child at St. Mary’s Mission boarding school in Omak, Washington, according to a statement issued by Tamaki.

Kathy Mendez & Blaine TamakiMendez, a Yakama tribal member who didn’t attend Friday’s press conference, was 11 when she was sent to St. Mary’s Mission by a state foster worker and was abused for a year by the Jesuit priest who ran the school, she said in the statement.

“I kept the sexual molestation hidden in the dark, in my soul, for years and years. Finally, when I came forward and saw that others did too, it was as if the blanket that had hidden our secret was pulled off and we could move into the light again,” Mendez said in a statement.

Another victim, Clarita Vargas, a member of the Colville tribe in Washington, attended Friday’s press conference and told reporters that she attended the same boarding school from second to eighth grade during the 1960s and early 1970s.

She said the same Jesuit priest held a movie night in his private office and quarters, and “he would purposely select a child to molest,” Vargas said.

“I was a victim of physical and sexual abuse by one of the priests,” Vargas said.

About the settlement, she said, “It’s a day of reckoning and justice. … This will continue to allow us on a path for healing. There is a generational trauma in Indian country.”

She later added: “When I think about how important this is to us, I can only say my spirit was wounded and this makes it feel better.”

Paedophile Special!Thirty-eight of the claims handled by Tamaki involve sexual abuse by a Jesuit priest who resides in a private retirement facility financed by the Jesuits, Tamaki said.

Forty-nine of the almost 100 victims represented by Tamaki were sexually abused when they were 8 years old or younger, he said. The remaining victims were ages 9 to 14 during the abuse, he said.

Most of the victims were abused during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s at reservation mission schools, including Sacred Heart Mission in Desmet, Idaho; St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius, Montana; St. Paul’s Mission in Hayes, Montana; and St. Labre Mission in Ashland, Montana, Tamaki said.

Theo Lawrence, who attended St. Ignatius Mission, had wanted to talk with reporters Friday, but he died this past week, Tamaki said in statement.

Lawrence was in third grade when the molestation began allegedly by a priest and a nun who worked with the Jesuit missionaries, according to Tamaki.

Before he died, Lawrence provided a statement for Friday’s press conference: “The nun or one of the brothers would send me to the rectory to see (the priest). He would give me candy or call me special – and then he would molest me. They all did at various times,” his statement said.

Lawrence said that he was scared to tell anyone because all of the boys were told repeatedly that “men of God don’t talk. We were scared that if we uttered even one word, we would go to hell,” his statement said. – CNN, March 25, 2011


One Response

  1. […] US Jesuits pay $166,000,000 to sex abuse victims in Oregan – William Yardley […]

    Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: