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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. Jesus of Nazareth

    When I return, I am going to gather all my loyal followers around me, and I am going to ask the "What the hell is the matter with you idiots ? ! ? ! ? !"

    Then I am going to send them all to this place that has a sign out from that has "heaven" written in crayon, and there they get to spend the rest of eternity hating everyone else and bickering endlessly and figuring out how to make everything a whole lot less fun.

    The rest of you, go do what you want. I'm outta here.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Mary

      Son, I told you this would happen.

      March 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  2. salina

    Don't forget,.. the right reverend Jimmy Swaggart is on t.v. every night,.. And, the right reverend Jimmy Bakker also... I love watching these two wacko's pleading for people to send them money.. Makes me wanna upchuck

    March 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  3. Brian

    This is getting old. The Catholic Church should address this and do something about in real time – not decades after the fact.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  4. Cindy Bradley

    there is no such thing as "Jesuit nuns."

    March 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  5. Stan with an extra a

    How is it thats these pious churches have millions of dollars and molest children?

    March 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • shofar

      The big chunk is paid by the insurers and the rest comes from the order. The Jesuits are traditionally known as the educational order. They own schools and churches. Those properties are usually located on prime real state areas. There is no Bank in US, not willing to lend the money with that type of collateral.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  6. Proud Catholic

    I wish to point out that percentage wise, the number of priests and religious who have been accused of these crime is less than most other religions. Check the stats for yourself.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Magic

      Proud Catholic,

      One dragon at a time... one at a time.

      Besides, the RC trumpets itself as the the very pillar, paragon and head honcho of morality. They, all the way up the hierarchy ladder, have failed abominably. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • c.zion

      it's a common defense by the masters at deceit. they won't mention that each individual was a serial rapist of multi able defenseless children some even deaf and autistic.the modus operandi is change the label. go from , spread the word (really means take their land)orphanage to hospital, to condo tower complex while engaging in tax haven manipulations.

      March 27, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  7. prison?

    It's so shameful that money is offered as only compensation for such obviously systematic abuse. Aren't there any prisons in the Northwest?

    March 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  8. Gloria

    It's time to stop singling out the abuses of the Muslim fanatics for their crimes against humanity. It's time to turn the spotlight on ALL Abrahamic religions, which are nothing but systematic brain washing and priming of people to receive abuse.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  9. RightTurnClyde

    I went to a Jesuit University. I never experienced (or even heard of) misbehavior of any priest. They are excellent teachers and generally exemplary role models. There were 8,000 students then and there never was so much as a rumor of misbehavior. The Jesuit's operate 150 universities world wide, more than 45 of them in the U.S. and have educated hundreds of thousands of school teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, dentists, artists, community leaders and business executives. I think it is misinformation when priests are portrayed as child abusers. If such cases have occurred they were extremely unusual. Jesuits have done remarkable good all around the world and we can never thank them enough for their excellent work.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • cb

      you are so ignorant, it's hurts. HOW COULD IT BE MISINFORMATION IF THEY JUST SETTLED FOR THE LARGEST CASE ON US RECORD? these priests are pigs, and organized religion harbors them, and most likely, has done so for centuries.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      The Vatican itself admitted that the number of priests pedophile abuse over the last 50 years is 1.5% – 5%. The percentage in America is about 4%. That translates to roughly 108,000 pedophile priests in the world. That is not "extremely unusual" and "misinformation", especially as the Vatican admits to the percentages.

      470 se-xually abused children, just in the rural Northwest, only Native Americans. Figure in everyone in the worlds, and the scope of the problem becomes monsterous. Sorry that some of the Church's ultraconformists cannot accept it, but in their way, they become minor accomplices by denying and attacking victims and showing how cold and hard their hearts are.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  10. Amilius

    Is it time for organized religion to step down for its nearing the age of Aquarius, age of Aquarius :p

    March 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  11. Jey

    Anyone who has been proven to have hurt kids should be punished as per the law. Can someone point to a case where a priest was put in jail?

    March 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  12. Paul

    I've come back to the Catholic Church. It's the greatest feeling in the world!!!!

    Sorry to you all...the church will be here long after you all die. To the next 2000 years.

    May god bless you.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • johnpaul

      how many children have you molested?

      March 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Moses

      Paul

      You don't need Catholicism or any other religion to reach God. The frustrated Catholic priests will all end up in hell, and be someone's bit*h. They're a shame to humanity

      March 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  13. Wolf

    Here is a link to more of the story that also show the face of one of the pieces of feces who abused these poor kids. May all the abuses rot soon in the ground. I wish authorities would let the victims get together and torch these buildings they were in...it just may be somewhat cathartic for them. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/118658434.html

    March 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  14. march madness

    Religion is all about brain washing individuals and taking their money. "We need more money for the church, to buy more bibles, and to help spread the word of God. " Translation, I need a bigger house, my kids need a private education, and we're taking a family vacation.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  15. Frank

    Pedophilia is an illness and there is no cure. It affects various people, not just Catholic priests.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • suteki777

      the trouble is when people try to repress it, it comes out anyway. In this case we have grown men denying this innate part of humans. They can't force it to disappear so it comes out in totally inappropriate ways. if the church allowed priests to marry this would be a much smaller issue. It is really a shame that this repression has ended up ruining the lives of children throughout time and all over the world.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  16. tristan20000

    why people blame the bible, blame the mankind

    March 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  17. johnpaul

    anyone that supports the catholic church are as guilty as these pedophile priest

    March 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      That is just knee-jerk foolishness. There is a Catholic medical center in Maywood Illinois that has educated thousands of doctors and nurses and health technicians (X-Ray, P.T., Respiration therapists, medical social workers) and care givers .. who in turn have gone to every corner of the globe! They have brought healing and relief to millions of people (Haiti, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, Europe). Less than .001% have ever even heard of a pedophile; 99.99% are better than you johnpaul. The same clergy have given literacy and advanced learning to millions; can you imagine how simply literacy works to vanquish poverty. There is enormous virtue in the Christian community (Catholic and Protestant and Jewish) .. tremendous gifts of improved lives, relief of suffering and HOPE. The media can "sell copy" by focusing on the odd .001% (it is misinformation)

      March 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • BADGUY

      But...the Catholic Church no longer sticks clear of politics, which its tax free status requires. As a result, its tax free status should be removed.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  18. Byrd

    My grandfather was a Jesuit in the 1920s who was excommunicated because he left the church to marry my grandmother. I'm quite sure he'll be more than happy to show his fellow Jesuits the door to Hell.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  19. thinking

    Amazing how much money these tax free organizations acquire. And horde for their own uses. Organized religion is a sin.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      You are not thinking when you say they horde money for their own uses. Much of the money they receive goes in to an endowment and is publicly audited. Their endowment pays to educate people who go on to be teachers (and spread learning in their communities) and healers (doctors, dentists, physical therapists, care givers), developers, leaders. Whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish these church-run services make life better for millions of people. CHOC hospital, the Shriners, the Mormons, Jesuits, Baptists, Methodists all work for the good of millions of people in our great cities and do an excellent job. THINK .. just THINK.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • cb

      hmmmm . . . i doubt those who received the settlement thought these people were doing good with their money.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  20. Frederica

    This is the time Catholics can start reading the Bible and start afresh.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • sean

      The Church wrote the Bible and we read the Bible. Educate yourself please.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Jen B

      Sean, the church did not write the Bible, it compiled, translated, and edited a collection of scriptures composed by various individuals over a period of several hundred years (prior to its own establishment) into what basically amounts as an anthology of religious texts devoted in one part to Jewish history and religious tradition and another part: the ministry of Jesus Christ. There even many scriptures out there devoted to the history of God (in the Judeao-Christian sense) and Jesus that did not make the cut for various reasons.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Oreste Di Rocco

      Maybe it's time that they STOP reading the bible. And so should everybody else

      March 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • SSampson

      @Jen B – This is insane !!! The FIRST time i have ever seen a post in this area that actually tells the truth – hehe – I bet you've entered into an argument over those statements on more than one occasion....

      So many people like to think that it is comprised of books divinely inspired... no room for oral tradition... no room for even the possibility that it is a compilation; that it represents a fraction of the writings from the various times....

      And SO many people that think the New Testament was written between 33BC and 1AD (so to speak) – nor any mention of the many other books that were not included – primarily because they would change the 'chosen' ideology' and affect the political asperations of the church....

      I also think there are more Star Wars books that are unpublished to keep us thinking that Luke is actually a good guy.... if they ONLY knew the truth !!!

      March 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Kenneth Leary

      Yes, read the Bible. Catholics have nothing to fear as the very first Pope and Bishops of the Church denied they even knew our Lord, abandoning Him to the most shameful most humiliating and painful suffering death known to man. They committed the most heinous crime of all, abandoning Jesus Himself when He needed them most. If they stood with Him, went into chains with Him, they could have convinced the Sanhedren that He was indeed their Messiah- God in the flesh. From the very beginning there have been sinners in the Church, there always were and there always will until Judgement Day.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Kenneth Leary

      Sorry all you non-Catholics who are convinced by your reformed ideologies- But contrary to what you are saying- Yes, Virginia, the Catholic Church wrote and put together the Bible- the Catholic Church decided in councils what books were to be in the Bible. If it wasn't for the Catholic Church WE WOULD HAVE NO BIBLE. Learn history – not what your reformed ideologists are making up! Learn where we got the Bible- FOR REAL. http://shop.catholic.com/product.php?productid=190

      March 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • BADGUY

      My feeling is that ALL religions are a bit of a "con". They ALL have large, expensive, buildngs (churches, mosques, temples, etc) and they ALL ask for money. If they REALLY believed in a religious "mission" they would be out in the streets, the prisons, etc. They wouldn't NEED large building or even monetary contributions. If you have a religious message you'd like to promote, get on the internet and present your views. All you need is the cost of a computer and the internet. You don't need to build a large building and spend millions to get your message thru!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:26 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.