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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. Brian

    The Jesuit Order is the SS of the Catholic Church. Jesuits were behind the genocide practiced by Spain in Latin America in the 15th and 16th centuries.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Really

      The SS of the 15th and 16th centuries. Nice. I suppose the "he who cast the first stone" doesn't apply to you, any relative, etc in the past 600 years. Great logic.

      March 26, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  2. Steve

    The problem with this is, its not the priests or the church officials who end up paying for this, its the good and decent people who make up the Catholic Church. I have no argument whatsoever for putting any priest guilty of these terrible crimes behind bars, but to allow a lawsuit to proceed against the church itself to the point of bankrupting it is just plain wrong and is in and of itself immoral.

    The Church aslo does some very good work in this world and these lawsuits only serve to take away some of its ability to continue such works. Keep in mind when you take money from the Church you are also taking away money from Catholic Charities. All of you who think these endless payouts are a good idea and equal justice have no clue as to what you are talking about and need to look at the big picture.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  3. Albert

    As a catholic, my thoughts :

    Why to even settle financially? If the priests are guilty, pull the rug off them and let them fend for themselves.

    The stained priests from the church needs to be removed right now, without giving a feel for the opportunist that there lies an opportunity to make money off it. I feel for the good ones that have sacrificed so much and have to unfairly bear the brunt of all this.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Maybe

      Albert,

      "The stained priests from the church needs to be removed right now,..."

      The RC is doing that, but I'm afraid it is too little too late. The RC's credibility as the bastion of truth has been irreparably damaged.

      March 26, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  4. SarahPhalin

    Another example of the utter moral bankruptcy of organised religion. Hypocritical, lying pedophiles through and through. Seperation of church and state is never so badly needed as it is today.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  5. Thomas A Martinet

    It seems to me that the "Catholic Church" should have to foot the entire bill. When the insurance companies have to pay the bill it is just passed on to all the other people who are insured. Therefore, all of us, regardless of religious persuation or atheists, have to foot the bill for the failure of the "Catholic Church" to monitor the behavior of it's own members & clergy! Why should all of the public have to end up paying for this "religious" injustice?

    March 26, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  6. Wesley

    Christianity was invented to remove spiritual and occult knowledge (the powers of the mind) from the populace and place this power in the hands of a "chosen" few to the detriment of all humanity. The powers of the mind and soul are very real. People who are unaware of or who do not believe in these powers are easy to control and manipulate by those who are skilled in using these energies.

    The Original Gods [Demons] were unjustly labeled as monsters and branded as "evil" to keep humanity from spiritual knowledge. Because of this, the human race has drastically degenerated both spiritually and intellectually.

    http;//www.exposingchristianity.com

    March 26, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Will

      What mail order catalog did you get your degree from?

      March 26, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  7. King Diamond

    the church has been in existence for 1000+ years. Maybe this will bankrupt it, and start anew. The catholic faith itself is wonderful and I believe in it deeply.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  8. sasss31

    More examples of the evil of religion and its hypocrisy at your fingertips.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  9. Bazoing

    The whole Jesuit organization throughout the world cannot claim to be bankrupt. Make them pay! They are specifically working for the Pope, he can back them. Arrogance and a lack of empathy has caused this, neither serves Jesus.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  10. david

    it is good to make them pay for there crime. i hope a lawyer would make the state of michigan pay for the killing of kids in this state.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  11. TG

    The Catholic Church is one of the most blood-guilty and immoral religions on the face of the earth. For example, in 1546, 14 men of Meaux, France, were found guilty of heresy and condemned to be burned alive by the Catholic Church. Their crimes ? They met in private homes, prayed, sang psalms, observed the Lord's Supper, and declared that they would never accept "Papistical idolatries."

    Adolf Hitler and all his staff were Catholics. In fact, only by the support of the Catholic Church when it signed the Reich Concordat in 1933 that Hitler was able to attain to power, with Cardinal Eugene Pacelli (who later became Pope Pius XII) meeting with Germany's former chancellor Frans Von Papen. By the end of 1933, Vatican support had become a major factor in Hitler's push for world domination, and eventually led to the loss of life of some 55 million people in WWII.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  12. Dennis

    I have been proud to have received a Jesuit education. Now I will reflect, pray, and discern why I should ever trust this group of men again. The Catholic church's leadership as a whole is rapidly in decay. I am glad I now play golf on Sunday mornings.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • jmba

      you're glad you're playing golf on Sunday mornings? you are no different from them...make a stand of your belief...keep your faith no matter what...your life does not depend on them...

      March 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Really

      There is no defense of predators. I did receive a great Jesuit education, and have known plenty of stellar Jesuits. Jesuit or not, the offenders in this story will face the law as they should. Generalizations are inaccurate. As in, you believe everything you read, you are a fool. What we don't get from these articles as we should is a percentage or measure of how many of each group (jew/muslim/atheist/buddhist/etc) has been convicted to date. Perspective is controlled by the story teller in all news to the uneducated reader. The point is, yes you'll see highlighting stories about groups, and in most news it can get painted in a fashion that is not representative of the whole population. Wouldn't a real journalist give us that perspective? How about the next story on Jews? Muslims?

      March 26, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  13. Reality

    Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?
    "
    FEAR, SHAME and GUILT and COVER IT ALL UP!!!

    Obviously, ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

    Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

    Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of ped-ophilia are married.

    Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have s-ex with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"

    Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods

    Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pe-dophilia is present in all walks of life.

    If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for ped-ophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

    March 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  14. Ouida Bolton

    Anyone who attended Catholic schools in the 1960's and 1970's can probably think of one or more deviant priests or nuns.
    It's so disgusting to me to think that we were MADE to attend mass daily and were scolded for not attending mass on Sunday.
    Such hypocrits will burn in hell. I know there are good priests and nuns and it's a shame that they are even associated with these predators. And to think of the catholic churches/diocese/vatican COVERING UP for these pedophiles and passing them to the next parish. I am so glad I am no longer catholic...I wish the victims well and am proud of them for speaking up.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  15. Cimedaca

    I guess if you prevent a man from copulation the hormones have to exert their influence eventually. Obviously can't mess with thousands of years of evolution under the garb of religion!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Pat

    this is just another way to further taint religion unfortunately, although there are many cases either in secret or public.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  17. Peter Cooke

    cnn is a globalist site run by none other then catholic hater Ted Turner, the Catholic Church is an enemy of Obamas Socialist state so here we are, with the bad press. The Catholic Church and Jesus will win, globalists.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • UncleM

      You are paranoid and delusional

      March 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITZ A CONSPIRASY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A GLOBULIST CONSPIRASY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      DOG IS LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GODS LOVE WILL BURN YOU EVIL PEEOPLES IN HELLLL1111111111111

      March 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  18. Catcher Rye

    I smell a second collection next Sunday

    March 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  19. david

    no the catholics do not read the bible, or obey it. most of them listen to the priest of which all of them denied the Bible in these matters: 1) salvation – The Bible says that Jesus sacrifice on the cross is the only payment for sin, the catholics had a idea to preach payment to get out of purgatory. Mary as co-redeemer- again, the Bible says that Jesus is the only way into heaven (john 14:6)

    March 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • UncleM

      The bible is made up. Ignore it.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      For centuries, they not only did not read the bible, they listened to sermons in Latin that ensured that they never had any idea what was being said. Not that they missed anything.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  20. PDC

    disgusting

    March 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Muryel Pewls

      This is way vile to even comment. I just pray that the people who were abused find some healing. Money won't solve completely, but it will ease the pain. The whole thing is just sick!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 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.