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March 25th, 2011
04:06 PM ET

Jesuits pay record $166.1 million in child abuse case

By Michael Martinez, CNN

The 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.

"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.

Jesuits 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.

Mendez, 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."

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 Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Courts • Sex abuse

soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. TruthandBeauty

    Can you even begin to imagine what was going on before the separation of church and state? Religion was basically the state. How many centuries of abuse was taking place with a peep from anyone? I am sure this didn't all start in 1940.

    And the republicans want us to go back to that? Turn us back into a theocracy. God forbid.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • sean

      Republicans want the seperation of church and State recinded? Show some proof.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  2. constantine

    http://www.youtube.com/user/400constantine

    March 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  3. BARKINGwolf

    Child molesting by clericks has been going on since the beginning of Christianity. ALL of the religions are guilty of it.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • sean

      statistics show that child abuse is a more serious problem OURTSIDE the Church.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Guest

      Sean you are correct. Nobody wants to hear it (or read the facts) because it is easier to blame the Catholic Church then to admit that this is a HUMAN problem.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. LouAz

    The silence of ALL catholics is their continual CONSENT.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • sean

      Catholics are at the forefront of those who are demanding justice. You should educate yourself on the matter instead of making ihnorant comments.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • LouAz

      sean – BULL ! You and your whole church have known of this for years and years. To this minute not a single catholic, except those molested, has ever contacted any authority anyplace on earth and reported inappropriate action by any member of "your" clergy. TO THIS MINUTE !

      March 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • sean

      LoaAz, Not true.You obviousy are a bigot.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • LouAz

      sean – You obviously are a catholic apologist !

      March 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  5. Name putpriestsinjail

    Has everyone gone mad. Put these priest low life's behind bars and throw away the key.. they mentally destroyed 500 I'm sure much more children. Van you imagine if this happened to you when you were a child. Better yet castrate them. EVERYONE WAKE UP.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  6. skeptic2

    The big, unanswered, unmentionable question in all this continuing, world-wide horror is where was the Almighty when these kids needed help? You know that these kids must have prayed and prayed to make these pedophilic monsters stop their brutality. But nothing happened. No relief. No salvation. Why don't we have the guts to ask the big question? Is there really a God out there who would stand by and allow his children to suffer so? If there is, do we really want to worship such a Diety? On the other hand, we non-believers look on this dilemma without any conflict. No God, no expectations. Just a hope for the speedy criminal prosecution of all parties involved.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Amen to that!

      March 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • ArtInChicago

      I think it's important to read Scripture to answer that question. Do you turn to the Almighty when thngs are going good? When prosperity aligns, do you give thanks to a Deity? God is not Santa Claus, nor are timeframes a function of what we want. "Through all things acknowledge God and He will direct thy path".....but He won't force ya or make ya.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • SDFrankie

      Santa Claus? Is that how you see a God who would protect innocent children? Asking a supreme being to do that is like making a wish list for Santa? Dear God, if you're not too busy could you please stop your servants from raping our children? Alternatively, if that really is too much to ask of you, could you just get lost, you worthless fable?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  7. Churches

    That is why I don't participate in organized religion. Jesuits, catholics, Westboro baptist, all the same....

    March 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  8. ccranger

    Yea, Lets show em, close all the public schools where teachers and coaches lurk- turn em into parks. Lets close down all the circus tents (rampent with pedo-clowns n mimes making animal ballowns for the kids) . Now, what about them abusive cops, close em, close down each station. Those pesky hospitals, they need to go. Anywhere people are systematically abused, shut em down! Lets not stop there...................... "Reality"

    March 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • LouAz

      One group of pedophiles at a time, you apologist. You and your whole church have known of this for years and years. To this minute not a single catholic, except those molested, has ever contacted any authority anyplace on earth and reported inappropriate action by any member of "your" clergy. TO THIS MINUTE !

      March 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Guest

      Well said...

      March 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Dorothy

      LouAz, that makes no sense. I've been Catholic my whole life and not once have I known anyone to be molested by a priest or other religious figure. Coaches and family members – yup. But no Catholic will report abuse if they don't know about it – and neither will teammates, other family members, classmates, fellow Protestant churchgoers, etc, if they don't know about it.

      March 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  9. ed

    At least you people could educate yourself on religion before you start speaking about it

    March 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Know about religion

      Believing in deities doesn'y make you smarter, it makes you a little more dependent, thus the power take advantage.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  10. Pizzle

    A PI attorney once asked "how many people were on the bus?" The plaintiff responded with a question "before or after the accident?" So how many of these claims are really legit? Just sayin.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • KRS1

      How many are really legit? Well, the pedophiles just paid out 166 million so I'm guessing it wasn't a my word vs your word kind of argument. Look you might be into the whole Catholicism thing but you can't put your head in the sand when mass pedophilia takes place... that's the pope's job.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Denizen Kate

    All they have to do is repent and god will forgive them, right? If I were one of their victims, I'd be eager to arrange the introduction.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  12. jewishknows

    The abuse extends into Canada too. The Priests abused members of the Cree tribe and others. The average monthly payout in Canada, per victim, is U.S. $3400. It's almost as if they are aliens, the abusers. They don't mate with women, but convince parents that having their children kneel in front of them honors the Christian G-d. If Muslim is submissive to a god, then Catholicism seems submissive to perverted men!

    March 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • KRS1

      I don't think "God" is a filtered word.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  13. kurt

    the real cancer on society is NOT religion...it is those who have no religion. In religion you'll find the basis of what is right and wrong everything else is your opinion against someone else's. without religion there is no ultimate authority and right and wrong is simply a matter of opinion, which leads to chaos. I think anyone who does NOT believe in religion is small-minded and deceived by their own perceived superiority.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      The basis of right and wrong are found in common sense and good manners. I don't need to believe in an old white-bearded man in the sky to force me to behave well towards others. Logic and reason tell me that I should do no harm by words or deeds, just as I would wish to be done no harm by others. You don't need a bible for that. Religion is the placebo of the masses.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Rochelle

      Well said Denizen!

      March 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Trishia Jacobs

      Actually, the Apostle Paul said "the law is written on your hearts." It's called a conscience:)

      Romans 2:14-15 (New International Version, ©2011)
      14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

      March 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • ryan

      the apostle paul was an idiot who lived during the bronze age and practiced genocide until he was "abducted by aliens" and then preached garbage that unfortunately for mankind has brought us the backwards church and its child abuse and anti science crusades.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Drew

      "Logic and reason tell me that I should do no harm by words or deeds, just as I would wish to be done no harm by others." Actually logic and reason provide no motivation to behave ethically unless such behavior benefits you, and similarly they do provide incentive to behave unethically whenever you stand to gain something by it. Without a higher justification "common sense" and "good manners" are meaningless

      March 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  14. Larry

    Voices from beyond made them do it, people that are relegious always hear A voice or voices.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  15. ryan

    religion is cancer on society. Its just disgusting. Adults with imaginary friends are stupid and certainly should not be left alone with children!

    March 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • writ

      Sir, if you were to build your own society, and it was determined by a randomizer that only selects 40 random people that are either church-goers or non-church-goers, which would you pick? Yeah I thought so. Religious adults are stupid and disgusting huh, unfortunately you haven't seen much in this world.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • ryan

      that makes about as much sense as living your life by a book that condones slavery, child abuse, genocide, and teaches that anyone who doesnt love all that crap is going to hell for eternity. Yeah, religion does suck.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • steveLT

      Agree with ryan 100%. Religion will be the death of civilization. The atheists/agnostics I know are far better people than the so-called christians. Once you start telling people they're super special because they believe in a certain fairy tale, you've made little monsters out of them all. I'm superior! You're going to hell because you're not as fabulous as me! The bible means what I say it means (spoken whenever challenged on all the contradictions contained within). I know this because I'm special! And I will use it to beat you down because you're not special!

      Let me wrap up christianity for you: Me! Me! Me! I'm saved! I'm special! You're dirt! Now hand over your children. Mmmm....children.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  16. markiejoe

    Okay, so the lawyers get about half of the $166.1 million, so that leaves only about $80 million to split up among 500 people. That's a pretty paltry settlement. I'd say the Jesuits got off good.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  17. Lonewolf777

    Abstinence is not normal human behaviour and any "religion" that insists on it will have this as the outcome..

    March 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • conrad

      Religions in general would be better of with Women Priestess' and leaders ...

      March 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • AGeek

      Odd .. I don't hear of this problem coming from Buddhist monks...

      March 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Guest

      Abstinence is a choice not a requirement, and the Church doesn't "insist" on it. Pedophilia is not a result of abstinence don't confuse the two. There are plenty of people, religious or atheist who, are abstinent and they don't molest children.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  18. Well...

    ...at least for once it's not the Catholic priests buggering the kids in their care. Though not exactly a bright side to see such widespread abuse in other churches too.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • LP

      Unless the Jesuits are an order of Catholic priests. Which they are.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • josh

      are you sure jesuits are not part of the catholic church?

      March 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jim

      The Jesuits are a Roman Catholic religious order of brothers and priests.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • John Markham

      ...Jesuits are not Catholic priests???

      March 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Reality

    The continuing "vomit-inducing" ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the elimination of all religions as we know them. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks

    March 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • QS

      Seconded!

      March 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jesus

      Religions are being exposed daily as a criminal enterprise and a scam to separate you from your cash.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      They don't just take your money, they also don't pay taxes. Imagine how much of the country's deficit we could knock out if they did!

      March 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • danno

      Agreed !!!

      March 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Thomas

      Think about this for a minute - if their coffers have so much money in them that they could even contemplate making payouts of these magnitudes, why then are there still starving children in the developing world? Wouldn't they have more than enough to feed and clothe just about everyone in the Third World?

      March 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Guest

      @ Reality ...The "elimination of religions," "replace all religions" comments make you sound like Hitler. Yes we should all be just like you.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  20. first one to comment

    =)

    March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Get Facts

      This IS NOT the largest in US history.. how short memory span do we have?
      What about in L.A on July 17 2007 when the Archdiocese gave $660 million to 500 victims of abuse?

      http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2007/07_08/2007_07_17_LosAngelesTimes_LADiocese.htm

      March 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • JezusHcrist

      This should under the CRIME section. Nevermind, catholics take their religion to criminal heights. (But why is there a belief blog?)

      March 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.