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. Brian

    Who knew Jesus paid so well?

    March 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • 12-21-12

      Jesus has very little to do with the catholic religion!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  2. james

    I suspect a lot of people with pedophilic tendencies feel ashamed and believe that becoming a priest will somehow heal them. Clearly it doesn't work.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  3. HeavenSent

    Priests can do no wrong. These people are lying.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  4. adi

    Pay the money, and claw hammer these priest in the back of the head til they die and dump them on the us/mexican border letting the cartels know how we deal with things.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  5. Brian Weseman

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

    Most indications coming from anthropological and biological studies of human beings indicate that we are, by nature, a social animal, we work, live, and succeed best in social groups. Few things tear at the fabric of those social groups than the wanton, willful killing of one of it's members.

    Logically, it's not a good thing to do, or to allow to happen, therefore. Still didn't need a robed man in the sky to lead me to this conclusion. Now I don't blame folks if phrasing this message in the form of a Beardo Robe McShakyFinger promising eternal damnation gets it across better to them than this very sterile way of putting it, but you did ask for how not killing folks could be talked against from a purely logical perspective.

    So, there you go.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • MM22

      brian: "Most indications coming from anthropological and biological studies of human beings indicate that we are, by nature, a social animal, we work, live, and succeed best in social groups. Few things tear at the fabric of those social groups than the wanton, willful killing of one of it's members."

      I'm glad you could say so little in so many words.

      "Few things tear at the fabric of those social groups than the wanton, willful killing of one of it's members. ... Logically, it's not a good thing to do, or to allow to happen"

      Which ignores the point. Why care about the species or the lives of future generations when they will, quite literally, have nothing to do with you? If it's in your own best interest, if it augments your happiness, your pleasure, your desires, why not be as wantonly destructive as possible?

      "but you did ask for how not killing folks could be talked against from a purely logical perspective."

      The "logical perspective" you're advocating is something detached and irrelevant to the immediate lives of everyone who exists. No moral conclusions about the "good" or what's "right" will come from it precisely because the good of the whole is often times irrelevant to the "good" of the individual.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • MM22

      brian: "Most indications coming from anthropological and biological studies of human beings indicate that we are, by nature, a social animal, we work, live, and succeed best in social groups. Few things tear at the fabric of those social groups than the wanton, willful killing of one of it's members."

      Not to belabor the point: but this implicitly accepts the proposition that you should do what's in your best interest. Consequently, if it's in your best interest to kill a member of your group, you may as well do it.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  6. toshmaster1

    If there was any fairness in the world, these organizations would be shut down- but no, they are sacred and must be kept going for future molesting.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  7. pod

    There's just too much violence in religion. Makes this peaceful person not want to be involved, especially since there are multiple religions that "are the only one"...how can anyone "win" who participates?

    March 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • 12-21-12

      We're right and everyone else (billions) is (are) wrong!

      With logic like that, God knows exactly why His children HATE religion!

      It's not a sin to HATE religion!

      Jesus didn't like religion either and I believe God doesn't like religion or religious organizations either.

      Oh sure they do good things, but then they (the organization) turn around and molest children.

      God said WHATEVER you do, don't molest children!

      I can't convince haters of God to live a Christian life, because religious people are confusing haters of God!

      The Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit are NOT the same as any religion in the world!

      Religion is man-made and is the reason for wars, hatred, child abuse, etc.

      But if you're brainwashed by a religion (like catholicism, mormonism, etc) you are blinded by it and think it is the only way.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  8. 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 7:47 pm |
    • Observer

      The huge number of moral non-believers deserve more credit than the believers. They do it because they think it is best and not because of bribes (heaven) or threats (hell).

      March 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • MM22

      observer: "The huge number of moral non-believers deserve more credit than the believers. They do it because they think it is best and not because of bribes (heaven) or threats (hell)."

      Evidently you missed the point.

      "because they think it is best"

      Which means they do it for absolutely no reason. Why pursue what's "best" or what's "good" for others at the expense of your own pleasure and happiness?

      March 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • 12-21-12

      The bribe (Heaven)/threat (hell) argument is a valid one!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  9. justin

    So $353,404.26 per person is the going rate for raping children and destroying their lives.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • LouAz

      Man, you can buy a politican for about $20,000.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  10. Observer

    Same old, same old. Large numbers of men in an unnatural celibate environment.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • pothead

      It's something like the gym I used to go to. Luck I was taught not to drop the soap in front of a sailor while I was in the Marines. But, too, we did have a few gays in the Marines...but they fought along side us and us straight guys didn't give a damn.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • TJ

      It's not just that. The church provides a haven for child abusers. What better area to seek as a career? You have access. You have power and you have protection. Plus you get paid to do it. For life.

      And if you get caught? We'll they'll just pay off the families and hush it up. You certainly won't go to jail as you're a man of God!

      What predatory animal wouldn't seek out this kind of environment?

      March 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • iluvboys

      Where can I sign up for the priest job?

      March 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  11. Li

    I'd totally let a priest touch my balls for $332,200

    March 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • TJ

      That vow of poverty would get in the way though

      March 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  12. Tom

    sdgman.. No, it's not a story without end. It will end when the church stops giving away money and begins examining some of the claims..

    March 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  13. c.zion

    million dollar tax haven homes and villas, serial rapist of children, some that were deaf and had disabilities.they don't care because they have insurance and it's not their money .

    March 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  14. JennyTX

    Ick, ick, and more ick.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  15. Ari

    bottom line, you take your children into any church – and you're giving them to pedophiles and an organization that protects pedophiles.

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

      Horseshyt!! Children are no more in danger in church than any other place in our society. Teh problem is that teh RCC hid the story.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Learn a little

      There are pedophiles in schools, in the Boy Scouts, and in other places besides churches. Should children stay away from these organizations???

      March 25, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • 12-21-12

      I keep my daughter away from all the organizations you mention! She is home schooled and at 14, she will be trained in our home until she is no longer a child! By the time she is ready for college, she will have avoided any and every pedophile in said organizations!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Javier


      By the time doom's day come she will be 16 and will not make it to college. (pun intended)

      March 25, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • 12-21-12

      @ Javier

      You're correct!


      March 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  16. Thinking7

    The Catholic Church has very strict guidelines now as to who can even teach a child in a religious education class. Even helpers have to be fingerprinted and their backgrounds checked. All those going through religious training to become a priest now are psychologically tested. The Church has become much more outspoken on this issue because of things that have happened in the past. It is rare that things like this happen anymore. I am thankful for that. I love the Catholic Church. If we were to recall all the things that the Catholic Church has done for society, it would be a huge list. For one thing, Catholic nuns were the ones who started the first hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Where would we be without those things? It's easy to pound the Church for one terrible aspect and forget the goodness of the totality of the Church. I am sorry we forget the good things so easily.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • mythfree

      the church has been nothing but a lying, stealing bunch of perverts... Teaching their myth is just a bunch

      March 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • AI

      Good one, mythfree. Perhaps you should consider a bit more carefully before slandering literally millions of priests who did NOT engage in these actions, and do NOT fit the parameters of your broad brush condemnation.

      For having a name like "mythfree," you sure can spin a myth.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • george

      The training and checking is because of fear of lawsuits and further diminishing their eternally tarnished reputation, NOT because they actually care what happened. If there was any concern, the Catholic church would be more active in rooting out the Bishops/Cardinals?etc who ACTIVELY supported this behavior.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • John Sharp

      OMG, you are a horrible person for trying to bring up all the good things the Catholic Church does. I love the Catholic faithful, very good people even though I don't agree with their religious beliefs. But the Catholic Church is a wretched organization. its whole entire existence has been a blight on humanity, and it continues to get worse. Even the current pope himself moved child molesters from one parish to the next.
      The list of crimes against humanity done by this organization time and time again just grows longer.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • TJ

      "If we were to recall all the things that the Catholic Church has done for society"

      You need a history lesson. Like a really, really long, detailed history lesson. The Catholic Church has been filled with corruption and evil and done far more harm than good since it was founded. It has Martin Luther to thank for it not falling completely into complete depravity as it was hardly able to see it's own evil despite its edicts declaring itself oh so holy. Even after its reformation, it can't seem to drag itself into the twenty first century.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • stwebb

      I love Jesus, but you love the catholic church!

      Does anyone see the difference?

      It's Christianity vs religion!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Learn a little

      Candidates for the priesthood have undergone psychological testing for at least 40 years. I know this because my ex-husband went to a Catholic seminary 40 years ago. He wasn't encouraged to continue on in becoming a priest due to some unresolved issues from his childhood.

      The Catholic Church has done MANY great things. However, the church hierarchy allowed or at least turned a blind eye toward the pedophiles in its ranks, protected these sick priests, then engaged in cover-up. I had once been a VERY devout Catholic; I could no longer stay in the Church due to this very issue.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Javier


      You should read the story of the catholic church before making such statements,then you will realize all the damage that Catholicism has done to the world. Check the biography of some of the Popes (Borgia, Medici, the pope that unburied the body of his predecessor and had his body walked through Rome to finally dump it in the Tiber). Even Constantine was a twisted genius that used the power of the growing church for his own benefit.

      Read with a non-biased mind and the truth will come to you, buddy.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  17. Jeremiah

    and people have the audacity to criticize Islam ?

    March 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • JD

      There is a HUGE difference between molestation and murder. Both are evil but still a huge difference.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Michae lJ.

      OK, JD, you wannabe genius. Care to indulge us?

      March 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • wowlfie

      And Religious people believe in divinity. Yeah, there's your divine priests! Religion is so moronic. So gullible. There is what is and nothing more.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • TJ

      Let me think... yep. I'll criticize religion. Period.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • stwebb

      Religions sprinkle in bits of Christianity along with their own doctrine to make it look like the truth. But the bible doesn't go on and on about the things the catholic religion does like:

      the virgin Mary appearing on pancakes
      the vatican/pope
      having tons of babies
      pedophile priests

      this is religious garbage!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  18. Ryan

    maybe if the ignorant majority of this country would stop believing in fairy tails, we could end all this sick disgusting madness you all call 'religion' and we could actually progress as a society. grow up children. if you werent so greedy and could be satisfied with the one life were so lucky to have, we could get over all this non sense. GROW UP AND STOP BUYING THE SCAM CHILDREN.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • JD

      Hmmm, maybe? Nope, your ranting didn't convince me to give up Christianity. Why aren't you smart enough to realize religion has nothing to do with perverts? There are atheist perverts too.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • AI

      There's always someone that wants to blame entire groups of people they don't even know for the actions of a small minority that used to be in that group. Those that hate religion always come out of the woodwork to try to blame the very existence of religious beliefs for the misdeeds of 3rd parties. Hopefully it makes you feel good, and superior to everyone around you to slam the beliefs of others – beliefs which cannot be proven or disproven.

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

      Men became catholic priests because they knew they could victimized without punishment. Those Priests, Deacons, Bishops, Cardinals that knew what was occurring and did nothing (doing nothing includes moving the priest to another parish) are just as guilty as the pedophile himself.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • stwebb

      Just for the record...Jesus detested religion too!

      That's why He kicked them and their money changers out of what should have been Holy Temples.

      Even JD is confused about calling his/her Christian faith a religion.

      Christianity is NOT a religion!!!

      It's a lifestyle that is above religion.

      That's why pedophiles flock to religious organizations like the catholics (which is a religion)!

      Christianity = good

      Religion = bad

      March 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Javier

      stwebb. You are absolutely right. If only people could understand this simple truth there would be no religions, only a true, meaningful, one to one relationship with God.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • SFOT

      stwebb I couldn't agree with you more. Organized religion is the biggest scam of all time. One does not need religion to be faithful.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  19. ijreilly

    So if I confessed my sins, unknowingly, to one of these abusers, does it still count?

    March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • DavidMichael

      I never understood the concept of confession to a priest. If you sin against a person, you apologize to the person. If you sin against God, you apologize to God. Unless you sin against a priest, he shouldn't be involved in the matter.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • me

      Yes. A sacrament is a sacrament no matter the state of grace the priest is in or not.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • stwebb

      @ DavidMichael

      Don't try to figure this out...it's religion!

      I also think pedophiles know the best job in the world (for them) is the priesthood!

      March 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Javier

      It does not matter. They don't forgive your sins even if they are the incarnation of mother Theresa. It is Jesus that died for your sins, not the priests. You want forgiveness, confess to God. He is available 24 x 7

      March 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  20. sdgman

    This is just a story without end, isn't it? And they ALL were in on it!

    March 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Mirian

      Yes, you're right! There's nothing new.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:04 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.