Civil Suit Alleges Fairbanks Pastor Molested 10-Year-Old
By Mary Beth Smetzer
August 10, 2005
A woman raised in Tununak, a village on Nelson Island, filed a civil lawsuit against a Jesuit priest Tuesday, saying he molested her several time over a yearlong period starting in 1978 when she was 10 years old.
The lawsuit, filed in Bethel Superior Court under the name June Doe, names the Rev. Richard L. McCaffrey as the molester.
McCaffrey, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbanks, was named publicly and put on administrative leave more than two months ago by Bishop Donald Kettler, head of the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese, in response to a different allegation that McCaffrey sexually abused a minor about 25 years ago.
At the time, the bishop said suspending McCaffrey from pastoral duties is required when a cleric is accused of abuse.
A private investigation is being conducted by the diocesan Child Protection Committee on the allegation that led to McCaffrey's suspension and a report will likely be released in the next couple of weeks, said Ronnie Rosenberg, human resources director for the Fairbanks diocese.
June Doe is suing McCaffrey, the Diocese of Fairbanks, the Society of Jesus Oregon Province and the Society of Jesus Alaska.
The lawsuit was filed by Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa with Cooke, Roosa & Valcarce.
According to the complaint, June Doe decided to come forward after the earlier allegation was made public and she realized that "the defendants might be legally responsible for the harm done to her as a result of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Father McCaffrey."
June Doe alleges that McCaffrey would invite minor parishioners into his room and sleeping quarters, and on several occasions she was invited and molested by him.
Roosa said Tuesday that June Doe reported to him that her friends were also molested by McCaffrey during the year he served as pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Tununak, a Central Yupik village on the west coast of Nelson Island.
McCaffrey is in his early 60s. He has an extensive history in Alaska, is now living in Portland, Ore., while on administrative leave, Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg would not comment on whether any other complaints against the priest have been made to the diocese.
"We want to give this process its due and conduct a full and thorough process in the interest of justice."
Rosenberg said the bishop is not involved in the investigation and remains a neutral party.
Rosenberg repeated her appeal to anyone who has been abused by clergy or Catholic staff or volunteers to come forward.
"We realize it is difficult for people to talk about these matters but at the same time we want to get these matters out in the open," she said. "We'd like as a matter of truth and justice to hear people's stories, to get the facts so that matters can be resolved and healing can begin.
"We pray for everyone affected."
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