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Mar-28-2011 20:40printcomments

Turning a Page in Portland's Story of Clergy Abuse

"Their repentance and amendment is superficial and, if not formally at least subconsciously, is motivated by a desire to be again in a position where they can continue their wonted activity." - 1957 report to the Bishop of Manchester.

Clergy sex abue

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Another event of the long saga of clergy abuse of children involving Roman Catholic priests in the United States has come to a financial settlement this week.

It was announced Friday in Portland that the Oregon province of the Society of Jesus has agreed to pay $166.1 million to hundreds of people abused as children by Jesuit priests at schools throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

The province will pay $48.1 million into a trust for the victims, while one of its insurance carriers will pay $118 million of the settlement. Some of the cases occurred as far back as the late 1940’s.

The Portland-based ‘providence’ serves Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Many of the abuses experienced by the 524 or so victims took place in Alaska and at other U.S. Indian reservations in the Western U.S; therefore,the victims of this recent settlement are mainly comprised of Alaska natives and Native Americans.

As part of the Oregon province’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, the settlement follows other previous settlements in the western United States, including other previous ones with the same Oregon ‘province’, in which the Jesuits spent about $25 million since 2001 to settle 200 abuse claims, according to the Society of Jesus 'province'.

The newest settlement is among the largest of church clergy abuse financial settlement cases, over the past ten years, arising nationally. In 2007, the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims.

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The more than 500 plaintiffs who sued the L.A. Archdiocese are still fighting in court to get access to the priests' confidential church files, but nearly four years after the settlement, the files have still not been released according to recent news coverage.

The same year (2007), the Diocese of San Diego and the Diocese of San Bernardino, which had broken off from the Diocese of San Diego in 1978, agreed to pay $198.1 million to settle lawsuits with 144 victims. In the Seattle Archdiocese in Washington state, 68 priests also had allegations lodged against them from around 268 individuals who had made allegations spanning from 1950 through 2003.

The total cost of the clergy abuse scandal to the Seattle Archdiocese has been calculated to have exceeded 15 million dollars. All told, over 1500 clergy-abuse victims appear to have been compensated, at least financially, along the West Coast and Pacific Northwest to date.

In addition to the most recent financial settlement, the Portland based society also says it 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.." One of the accused priests operating for some years out of Alaska, and named as a perpetrator by than more than one complainant in the recent case, was a Father James Poole.

According to a 2009 article in The Stranger (a weekly out of Seattle, Washington), Poole was a "popular priest and radio personality on KNOM", in Alaska. The Stranger also reported an Anchorage-based attorney Ken Roosa referred to Poole as a man who "has left a trail of carnage behind him."

Apparently, the only reason Poole is not in jail, according to Roosa, is the Alaska statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes upon children. In 2009 Poole was still a priest, being cared for by the church. When the The Stranger inquired as to Poole’s current church status they received a reply: "Jim Poole is elderly," answered Very Reverend Patrick J. Lee, head of the Northwest Jesuits, by e-mail. "He lives in a Jesuit community under an approved safety plan that includes 24-hour supervision."

This last week, media reports of aspects of clergy abuse and failure to protect children have also been in the news regarding a case moving through the criminal court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Five priests are ordered to return to court for formal arraignment April 15, 2011. All five have signaled an intention to fight the charges. Four of the co-defendants - two priests, an ex-priest and a former Catholic school teacher - are charged with raping children.

Two priests, 64-year-old Charles Engelhardt and 47-year-old James Brennan, along with 68-year-old former priest Edward Avery and 48-year-old teacher Bernard Shero, are also charged with other crimes related to the rape charges, dating back to the 1990s.

The Stranger’s 2009 article quotes an internal church letter written in 1957 to the Bishop of Manchester, regarding clergy abuse. The letter was written by Father Gerald Fitzgerald who had founded the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez, New Mexico—the same institution Father Poole (mentioned above) is reported to have visited almost 50 years later.

In his 1957 letter to the Bishop, Father Fitzgerald “wrote that predatory priests (who he euphemistically refers to as "schizophrenic") cannot be effectively treated and should not be allowed to continue in the ministry.”

From the same Father Fitzgerald letter to the Bishop, another quote, “Their repentance and amendment is superficial and, if not formally at least subconsciously, is motivated by a desire to be again in a position where they can continue their wonted activity.

A new diocese means only green pastures... We are amazed to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum [the cure, or care, of souls].”

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