Saturday, March 26, 2011

Settlement of over 500 claims,0,7117223.story
Jesuit Priests, Sex Abuse Victims Announce Settlement
By Chris Klint and Ashton Goodell

11:05 AM AKDT, March 25, 2011


A clergy organization representing Jesuit priests in Western states has reached a $166.1 million agreement to settle approximately 524 claims of clergy sex abuse. The settlement is one of the largest in U.S. history relating to the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal.

Under the settlement, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus -- which represents Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Montana -- will pay $48.1 million into a trust for the victims, while one of its insurance carriers will pay $118 million. In addition, the society will publicize the names of perpetrators, issue a written apology to victims, release their medical records to them and take steps to protect children from future sexual abuse.

“Many victims blame themselves or believe they did something to cause this to happen, even though they were just children,” said Chris Cooke, an attorney representing several Alaskan clients. “I think the importance of something like an apology is the recognition that this wasn't the victim's fault.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys expect the payout to take up to six months. First the court will have to approve the order’s bankruptcy plan and evaluate the claims on a case-by-case basis. Some cases may not qualify; the money paid to each plaintiff will vary depending on a panel’s evaluation of the abuse suffered.

Attorneys for the victims say the abuse took place in Jesuit-operated mission schools and boarding schools on Indian reservations in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The order was accused of using villages as dumping grounds for priest known to have problems, a claim it has rejected.

After the lawsuits were filed in late 2008, the Oregon Province filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2009. Nearly 200 Alaska claims were brought by John Manly of Manly and Stewart (California).

“There is no question that the number of cases filed, and the establishment of prolific abuse, triggered the bankruptcy,” Manly said.

A year after the bankruptcy declaration, people claiming sex abuse filed 37 lawsuits demanding about $3.1 million against the Oregon Province. The plaintiffs told the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland that the society gave money to various church-related entities before filing for Chapter 11 protection, and that the funds should be considered part of the order’s assets.

“This settlement recognizes that the Jesuits betrayed the trust of hundreds of young children in their care, and inflicted terrible atrocities upon them,” said Blaine Tamaki of Tamaki Law, which represented nearly a third of the non-Alaska clients in the case. “These religious figures should have been responsible for protecting children, but instead raped and molested them.”

There have been numerous cases of clergy sex abuse in Alaska. The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks announced a tour of the state last October to offer sympathy to victims of abuse, along with symbolic “penance patches” as a sign of repentance. A month later, the Child Maltreatment Conference in Anchorage saw several victims come forward and try to chart a path forward after their lawsuits’ conclusion.

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