The sum of money, 50 million dollars, is the highest ever paid by a religious order
The victims lawyer: "the priests who gave trouble were sent to Alaska"
USA, pedophile missionaries among the eskimos
The Jesuits will pay for the damages
from our own correspondent MARIO CALABRESI
NEW YORK - The Society of Jesus will pay 50 million dollars as penalty damages to 110 Eskimos who were sexually abused by Jesuits priests when they were children or adolescents, in the period between 1961 and 1987.
The scandals in the American Church continue to reveal new and unexpected stories, which started to be known in 2002 in Boston. Those scandals seemed to have ended last summer, when the Los Angeles diocese made a settlement with 508 victims who had been sexually molested or raped during the last seventy years.
But now from Alaska comes the news that for the last 30 years, in 15 small villages among the most isolated and remote in the world, inhabited by the Yupik, who together with the Inuit form the Eskimo population, about ten priests belonging to the society founded by Ignazio de Loyola committed repeated sexual violence and abuses.
Those accusations were made four years ago but before the process started there was a plea bargain, which according to the Eskimos' lawyer, Ken Roosa, constitutes a record payment for a religious order, having each victim been offered half a million dollars to avoid the arraignment and pleading guilty on the part of the Jesuits.
The Society of Jesus's provincial father of Oregon, John Whitney, who is also responsible of Alaska, was very upset for the publicity given to the plea bargain, defining that announcement as "premature" and denying the Jesuits had sent to exile for many years priests whose sexual tendencies were already known, as was reported by some of the victims.
On the contrary, the Society of Jesus affirms that Northwest state, being one of the most difficult place for their mission, is where only the most proficient and courageous missionaries are being sent.
At St. Michael, a small island 15 km. long located on the North sound, the bay of the Bering Sea discovered by James Cook in 1778, the Deacon Joseph Lundowski abused almost all children from Stebbins and St. Michael, two minuscule villages inhabited by 150 families.
Lundowsky was accused by 34 people, who reported the violence occurred in a small church after catechism lessons, during the dark afternoons of the Alaskan winter. The man was a bald blue-eyed giant and he worked as a deacon in the diocese, even if the Jesuits denied any tie with their order and that they even didn't know who he was. He left the island in 1975 and it was discovered he died 10 years ago in Chicago at the Pacific Garden Mission, a religious shelter with a cafeteria and a dormitory. Most of the accused priests are now dead and their victims, who were then between 5 and 15 years old, are now between 30 and 60 years old.
The money the Jesuits will pay is due to the their responsibility for lack of control and for covering up the scandal for years. In 2004 there was added the accusation of their having burned and destroyed documents which showed their real behavior. Among the accused there was the Rev. James Poole, founder of the Catholic radio in the North of Alaska, now living in a retirement home. According to the plaintiffs, the Jesuits knew of his "inappropriate behavior" but even when he was sent back to Portland they let him continue his teaching to the children.
The victims' lawyer, from his studio in Anchorage, tells nobody had the courage to denounce those episodes until the news of the priests sexual scandals in the Boston diocese erupted. Since then stories of alcoholism, desperation and suicides emerged. "In some eskimos' villages," Roos said. "It's rare to find an adult who wasn't sexually abused.The Jesuits have never admitted that priests with a sexual problem were sent to Alaska. Now for my clients this accord means their stories of abuse , always denied, are finally made public," he said.