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. mythfree

    they should be sued to the point that they have to sell the Vatican and every thing they have stolen from humanity in the last 2000 years

    March 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • DonJansen

      You should definitely consider reading a history book. You'd be amazed how many groups, churches, countries, and peoples you could fantasize about suing. Or you could stop watching Court TV and get a job.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  2. rick

    What a bunch of sick, hypocritical, worthless, useless people. Too bad there isn't a god to judge and sentence them to the ultimate punishment. In 98 in an online game room (igames), that no longer exists, I mentioned these exact events evolving into a full blown investigation revealing just what their church was worth and everyone responded with max name calling. Well, here it is........just as mentioned. And Larry sez "find a zero tolerance religion. Cute. Take care all.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • mythfree

      just imagine how many millions have been abused in the last 2000 yrs.. Those now revealed are just a drop in the ocean of what they have been doing for all this time. Those thousands who are coming forward will get some vindication...but money will not heal the wounds they bare.. but if they could be driven out of business by taking all they have.. the better for it. They lived off their believers and their children.. They are worst then the devil they claim their god is against.
      I say sue till they are naked and living on the streets as the true beggars they are.
      They need to be pursued like Nazi's, hunted down and removed from society.. let them hang from their
      di..cks on the church lawn till they rot...

      March 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  3. billy

    This is probably why we have so many gays running around looking for rights. they were probably all molested and became confused. my take on reglion its only a name tag its gonna fall off when we go up or burn off when we go down. the catholic churchs are not to blame here we as humans are we have to blame someone its why we will never have peace.these people that done these to these kids should be put to death for their crimes.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  4. Erik

    Religion is just wonderful ... a wonderful waste of time, that is.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  5. Stefanie

    I was molested by my next door neighbor when I was seven. Think I can go get $335,000 from him?

    March 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • pothead

      Yes you can probably get the money. Just get a good attorney and cry alot. But too, if these men of their god are guilty they should pay as you and I would. Teachers go to jail for this stuff, why not a damn priest?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  6. Mike

    And these sick degenerates are the so called "smart priest". Not smart enough to cover all of their sad, sorted and pathetic lives and crimes. Oh. Not to mention hypocritical "call to god" ! If there is a god. Hopefully he knows how to divey out the ultimate in eternal justic to these degenerates for all time!

    March 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  7. John Norman

    To the moron with the problem with the Catholic Church's tax free status: The Catholic church educates millions of children in the USA at a savings to taxpayers of $20,000+ per child per year. What do the Baptists or the Muslims do for their tax free status?

    March 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  8. Brian

    History has shown that Jesuits are jesuitical. Hitler had some Jesuits at the battle of Stalingrad. Their job was to convince the German soldiers that God was on their side.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Phil

      CNN loves it some anti-Catholic stories. Never seems to cover the rabbis or the Baptist preachers who also molest kids. Then, sure as day follows night, a bunch of hate filled imbeciles weigh in with self-righteous slams against the 1.2 billion people who are Catholic. Math is hard for dumb people, but only 3% of priests have been found to be pedophiles. The same as the average male population.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Thinking7

      Thank you, Phil, for saying exactly what I have read numerous times. It is true. It just so happens that the Catholic Church is a huge organization. Of course, CNN loves these bash Catholic stories. Today, it ran a pro-Islam story. I'm really getting disgusted with CNN's agenda.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Javier

      To Phil:

      Your excuse is so lame... I do not doubt that there may be evangelical pastors that have molested children in the past and I do not endorse them. As a matter of fact I confronted the only one that I have been aware of, but a lot of catholic priests are child molesters, I think because of their celibate crap.

      You cannot ignore the fact that these guys and the "Chrest" legionaries (I refuse to use christ name associated with these perverts) from Marcial Maciel were actually doing the opposite of what a follower of Christ should be doing. Bunch of hypocrites.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  9. Marty Luther

    Prosecute the church for racketeering The hierarchy moves pedophiles around so that they might infect more congregations. This is not religion, it's child abuse.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  10. Larry Crockett

    There is plenty of fault to find with the abusive priests of course, but the source of the real scandal and culpability is the bishops who have acted to cover this problem up for years. Large financial penalties are the correct solution to this in terms of tort law, but perhaps people should vote with their feet and find a religion which has zero tolerance for this atrocity.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  11. yamon

    Rot in hellllllll all of them

    March 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  12. Bobby McGee

    500 people!? Jesus Christ!

    March 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  13. MM22

    denizen: "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"

    Logic and reason? Pray tell, what logic and what reason points you towards and objective morality that you must follow?

    You mean you've come to an "emotional conclusion" that you shouldn't harm others. If there is no god you have no reason to do "good" and avoid "evil" except so long as doing so brings you some type of inner peace and happiness. If you can get away with doing wrong when it benefits you, and avoid doing it when it doesn't, why shouldn't you do as many evil things as you please?

    Hume's sensible knave would rule the world under your view.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  14. Anne

    To Steve,
    Hit them where it hurts, the pocket book.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • pothead

      I agree. It isn't like the church is poor! But still they think it is okay to do such things to children because they are of their god and will be forgiven. Take their protection away! Take their cloth away and they are nothing more than simple human trash.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Rabbi Malachi

      A blow to the groin with a club spiked with rusty nails dipped in doggie poo would also be effective.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  15. oneula

    The Catholic parishioners who donated all of their hard earned money every Sunday, or whenever they did, hoping that it was for the church to do "god's work" surely never thought that their tythes were going to be used for paying off people that had been molested by these priests. I'm sure the priests didn't care as they were busy raping boys, not thinking about helping the "poor and down trodden". What a shame. I hope the victims get some solace out of this. All of the churches and religions should lose the tax free status when convicted of any crime.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • sean

      My bet is that any politician that trys to tax the Church will end up unemployed. So, give it a try,I'd love to see some unemployed liberals. Oh waite, liberals make up most of the unemlpoyed anyway.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  16. Joshua

    Google The Legion of Christ Order. Check out their Founder and his history.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Rabbi Malachi

      What? Was he a member of the super adventure club?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  17. Larry

    Regarding the "separation of church and state", a republican, Glen Urquhart who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in Delaware, says the separation of church and state didn't come from Jefferson, it came from Hitler. Hmmm. That implies he wants it rescinded. He is hardly the only one. When he said the Hitler comment, about half the audience applauded. So yes, there is a certain percentage of Republicans who want that rescinded. I am a Republican but I would like to distance myself from the crazies in the party. Unfortunately they seem to be in the majority at this point.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Andy

      The only way to distance yourself from the crazies in the Republican party is to leave and become an independent. Your party leadership runs elections on a platform of B.A.G.G (Bibles, Abortion, Guns and Gays).

      March 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • TheReaperD

      The reason that the inmates are running the asylum in the Republican party is that a hoard of radical politicians came in, powered by scared and/or hateful old white men who feel like they are "losing 'their' country" and the Koch brothers and the sane ones decided they didn't want to deal with them and left.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • mr anon

      why bother associating yourself with a political party? for some reason, some people seem to think that they *need* to belong to a party. i remember some time when someone told me i was "unpatriotic" because i didnt associate with a party. so i have views and i vote, yet im unpatriotic because i dont associate with a political party? lol. what a joke some sheeple are.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  18. PGelsman

    If the Catholic church (cult) were to lose it's tax free status, you'd see how fast they would clean up this problem.

    March 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Lucy

      That is coming to a theater near you very soon! When churches loose their tax free status is already in the making. Uncle Sam is finally realizing the "shamelss luxury" they have been living. Time is up...

      March 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • David

      Mr. Gelsman, I'm sure you won't mind when the synagogues lose their tax free status as well? Cause let's face it...they don't do anything compared to Catholics. No schools, no hospitals, no African missions, nada.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • sean

      Not a cult idiot.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  19. The Dude

    They should get the death penalty...

    March 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Nick

      I agree with you. Those victims should be executed rather than rewarded with money for pain they don't feel. I bet back then they actually enjoyed the "abuse" and let it continue. It's only now as adults that they realize they can get some money out of it too so it's like "double pleasure" for them.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • pothead

      Line them up and let a donkey have at them!

      March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Rabbi Malachi

      nick are you too st-st-st-stupid? I think The Dude was talking about the priests.....major fail!

      March 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  20. steve

    I was abused as an altar boy at the age of 9. It stopped and I went on with my life, married and had a family. This is all about money. Greedy people wanting to get rich quick. 'totally disgusting. I have my integrity and I assure you I will keep it!

    March 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • ryan

      your response is saddening. Letting child abusers walk sets a very bad precedent in society

      March 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • B. A.

      You're still a freak, Steve.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • John Sharp

      This is all about the Catholic Church continuing to move priests that molest children from one parish to the next and completely disregard the welfare of those they are supposed to be serving.
      It is the most vile of all betrayals.
      Sorry you were molested as a child, I certainly can not comprehend that situation but I can be outraged at an organization that not only hid the misdeeds of its employees but continued to place them in position to continue doing so. They should be penalized as severely as possible.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • masterofmeander

      Integrity? I don't believe it. I don't believe you. I think you're just another shill for the Church, paid by a PR firm hired by an attorney's office defending a diocese. I think you are shameless, soul-less, and headed to heat for all eternity.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • John Sharp

      BTW Steve the fact that you are just one more young boy that was molested by a Priest only points out how pervasive and horrible this situation actually is.
      How many young boys were molested and grew up and are okay with their molester continuing to do so.
      How many never said anything at all but carry this with them.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Mike

      Boy are you in denial. And. you are also a dick!

      March 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • thomas

      steve is right. sad to see the hard earned dollars of so many redistributed to so few. it should begin and end with the individuals responsible for this.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Thinking7

      Steve, I applaud you for going on with your life. I am sorry you had to go through this as a young child. It is sad. Please ignore any rude comments. Thank you for being a shining example of light in our dark world! May Jesus always be your guide! From another Catholic

      March 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Joel

      Steve, your unwillingness to fight shows the psychological damage done to all who are abused when they are young. It destroys the spirit and self-worth. My heart goes out to you and I hope some day you find your strength.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • EmeraldCity

      He's not a freak, B.A. You're an ignoramus. Go f yourself.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • mr anon

      youre every molester priests wetdream; a little boy who will stay quiet and never speak out. thanks to people like you, the true magnitude of the problem will not seem as bad as it truly is. the catholic church thanks you for staying hush hush.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Rabbi Malachi

      You must have enjoyed it Steve...we can arrange a reunion with those priests..they might remember you...from behind that is.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Magic


      Sorry, but not reporting molestation and letting it happen to others is not integrity.

      Don't want to be greedy?... then don't ask for any money - or ask for $25 and give it to charity, if you don't have therapy bills to cover.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • bobbo62

      So, what I hear Steve saying is that since he could suck it up, the rest of the abused children can too. Sorry Steve, They're not all as shallow as you. I, too, was an Altar Boy, but was fortunate enough to have been surrounded by good priests. But, even in the 60's I heard about abuses. The church has been hiding this for many, many years and many abuses, such as Steve's, will never be prosecuted. That alone is saving the church millions. It's not likely that the magnitude of these abuses will ever be made public. Start reading your history, Steve. You've been sheltered for too long.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • bluecrabz

      Get rich quick, Steve? The abuse occurred between 1940-1990. Easy money, huh?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Rabbi Malachi

      How do we know Steve isn't a priest?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • mr anon

      hey steve, if your kids were molested, would you tell them to get over it, suck it up, and go on with their lives? i dont understand why you wouldnt want to punish those responsible. if you cant get them in prison, why not go after what hurts them next, their pockets. the main point of these trials and convictions isnt about money, its about finding someone guilty and letting everyone kow about what is really going on.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • SmartBlondie

      @ Steve – you are one abused person above many. These children were taken advantage of while the church turned the other way for decades. This is not about getting rich, it's about holding churches accountable, finally, for their past and continued hypocrisy. Newspaper articles are NOT enough. Something must be done to expose these creeps and educate the masses about what lurks between the pews. Please consider changing your stance, with consideration for these children and those who will be abused in the future. Hopefully now they will be fewer.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • B.W.

      There are those that feel well adjusted as you do and that is great. I know of others that sought the path of suicide because of how mixed up they got and that is very sad. And there are those of us that have pretended that we were mature enough at the time of being molested to say that it wasn't anything that could possibly negatively effect the course our lives would take. I too would like to chastise any glory seeker in it for the money but I can only speak to the abuse I suffered and the direction my life took after that. I can quantify the suffering I have been through over the course of my life and that is between me and my abusers. I believe that anyone that has been abused deserves/needs to be heard and administered to respectfully, responsibly and completely and if that involves pay out then so be it.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
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About this blog

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.