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Northwest Jesuits’ $166.1M settlement cannot restore lost childhood/shattered faith [Updated]

In what is probably the Catholic Church’s third largest sex abuse settlement, the Northwest Jesuits “agreed Friday to pay $166.1 million” to some 500 Native Americans and Alaska Natives who were abused at the order’s schools in the Pacific Northwest in the 1940s to the 1990s.

There have been two larger settlements. The Los Angeles Diocese, agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims in 2007, and the San Diego Diocese agreed a $198 million settlement to 144 victims, also in 2007.

As Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times explains the Northwest Jesuits’ payments are part of a bankruptcy settlement:

The order has also agreed to no longer call the victims “alleged victims,” to write apologies to them and to enforce new practices designed to prevent abuse, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“It’s a day of reckoning and justice,” said Clarita Vargas, 51, of Tacoma, who was abused while a student at St. Mary’s Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak.

Of the 500 victims, about 470 suffered sexual abuse. About two dozen others were physically abused.

Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million.

Including this week’s settlement, the Northwest Jesuits, formally called the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, and their insurers have agreed to pay about $250 million total to some 700 victims. Victims’ lawyers say they’ve identified about 57 Jesuit priests or brothers who have abused.

According to Evi Pulkkinen of the Seattle Seattle Post Intelligencer:

It was, attorney for the plaintiffs said, “spiritual incest” on a staggering scale.

. . .

“Instead of teaching these Native American children about the love of God, these pedeophile priests were molesting these children,” said Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney whose firm represented about a third of the non-Alaskan plaintiffs in a suit filed in 2009.

“It was a culture of abuse of Native American children,” Tamaki continued. “Today is the day where they are acknowledging guilt.

“The $166.1 million is the largest settlement by a religious order in the history of the world,” lawyer Blaine Tamaki said. “Over 450 Native American children – infants, toddlers to teenagers – 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.

“No amount of money can bring back a lost childhood, a destroyed culture or a shattered faith,” said Tamaki, who represented about 90 of the victims.

A sense of the horror of the underlying events is captured by a 2009 feature written by Brendan Kiley for theStranger. In a passage about Father James Poole. Kiley writes:

In a 2005 deposition, Rachel testified that she had been molested by Father Poole in 1975, while in Nome for her second suicide attempt, an attempted overdose of alcohol and pills. He’d come sit by her bed, put his hand under the hospital blanket, and fondle her, she said.

She traveled between Stebbins and Nome several times in the late 1970s, spending time in hospitals and receiving homes. By 1977, Rachel testified, Poole had given her gonorrhea, and by 1978 she was pregnant with his child. In an interview with The Stranger, she said Poole encouraged her to get an abortion and tell the doctors she had been raped by her father. She followed his advice. “He brainwashed me,” she said. “He messed up my head, man.”

This settlement does not cover all grievances or conclude the legal actions, as the Catholic Sentinel points out:

The settlement does not dismiss 37 lawsuits filed last month against entities, including Jesuit High School and Gonzaga University, on behalf of abuse victims. Those lawsuits were seeking about $3.1 million that the province had paid out prior to declaring bankruptcy two years ago.

In addition, the settlement does not include five to seven claims the lawyers are pursuing against two other insurers for the Jesuits — Travelers Insurance and Atlantic Mutual.

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March 26, 2011 - Posted by | Catholic, children | , ,

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