SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

March 26, 2011

Jesuits settle NW abuse claims for $166 million

(Continued)

SEATTLE —

The Very Rev. Patrick Lee, speaking for the Oregon Province, said the organization would not comment on the settlement announcement because of its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, "as well as out of respect for the judicial process and all involved."

He said the province hopes to conclude the bankruptcy process as quickly as possible.

The province previously settled another 200 claims. Then it filed for bankruptcy in 2009, claiming the payments depleted its treasury.

An issue that surfaced when the bankruptcy proceedings got under way was the relationship between the province and other Jesuit properties, such as Gonzaga University. Attorneys for the victims initially argued the province was wealthy because it controls and owns Gonzaga, along with Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties.

Both Gonzaga and the Jesuit order maintain they are separate entities, and victims' attorneys did not pursue the issue during bankruptcy negotiations. Neither Gonzaga nor the other schools are contributing to the settlement announced Friday.

California attorney John Manly, who represented some of the abuse victims, contends the Jesuits knowingly put molesters in a position to abuse children.

"It wasn't an accident. The evidence showed they did it on purpose and it was rape," Manly said.

He added he was certain not all the victims have come forward, and he believes the pattern of abuse among Catholic priests continues.

Both the order and its insurers are paying into the settlement. About $6 million of the settlement is being set aside for future claims.

Attorney Blaine Tamaki said the priest who molested Vargas and about 100 other children has not been charged with a crime because the statute of limitations in Washington state is so restrictive. A bill before the state's 2011 Legislature would remove that statute of limitations.

The settlement is believed to be the Catholic Church's third-largest in the sex abuse cases, behind the Los Angeles Diocese, which agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims, and the San Diego Diocese, which agreed to pay $198 million to 144 victims, according to the website BishopAccountability.org.

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