TCC Gets Apology from Priest

By Diana Campbell
News-Miner [Alaska]
Downloaded March 17, 2004

Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - The former supervisor of the now-deceased Jesuit priest who has been accused of fondling Alaska Native boys wrote a letter of apology to Tanana Chiefs Conference delegates for comments that appeared recently in news reports.

The Rev. William Loyens, 77, said the reports that quoted him saying the alleged abuse wouldn't have much effect on the victims because their Native culture was "fairly loose" on sexual matters were taken out of context from a long deposition.

The letter, though accepted, did little to convince some of the convention attendees of the sincerity of the apology.

"I read the whole deposition," Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, said. "I didn't see anything taken out of context. "After reading his letter of apology, I didn't feel better."

Loyens said in his deposition that he knew mothers in villages who played with their baby boys' testicles "and the little boy was enjoying this immensely."

Lincoln said she has never heard of such a practice "and I'm 61 years old."

Loyens is a former Jesuit Superior of Alaska and holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology. The letter was passed out to about 300 people attending the TCC convention here on Tuesday.

"I am aware that certain remarks made during my recent deposition have received widespread attention and that people found them hurtful," Loyens wrote. "For this I am sorry and I apologize."

Loyens' deposition was taken in January for a lawsuit brought by eight men who said they were abused as boys by the late Rev. Jules Convert. The men accused Convert of fondling them while they slept or, in one case, while watching a movie, between 1955 and 1977. Seven of the men were altar boys in St. Marys, Kaltag or Unalakleet. Another lived in the Holy Cross orphanage overseen by Convert.

Loyens said he was suffering from leukemia. Attorneys feared that he would die before the trial date so they arranged for his deposition. He claimed to be one of the few Jesuits who remembers Convert.

"During my deposition they wanted to know if I ever knew of any hint of sexual abuse of Fr. Convert," Loyens wrote. "In all my years, I never did."

He said he believed the series of questions regarding the impact of sexual abuse posed to him by attorneys sought his opinion in his role as a cultural anthropologist.

Loyens taught in the University of Alaska Fairbanks anthropology department from 1966 to 1974.

He said that he believed as an anthropologist that Americans were generally uptight about sexual matters. Athabascans and Yupik cultures have a different, healthier view, he said.

"In the deposition I concluded, 'We could say 'loose,' but as an anthropologist, I say that's just the culture,'" Loyens wrote.

"When I saw the newspaper and read my words lifted from the deposition, I was surprised and shocked," he wrote. "I did not mean to imply that the molesting of a child by an adult would have little impact, no matter what the cultural context ... . Sexual abuse is wrong. It is morally and legally wrong. Sexual abuse is sinful and reprehensible. That is my opinion both as a priest and as an anthropologist."

TCC president Buddy Brown said he was happy that Loyens wrote the letter, which was addressed to Brown and TCC convention delegates.

"He did not necessarily retract his statements," Brown said. "But I'm glad for the apology."

Holy Cross delegate and village Chief Eugene Paul, said that he felt Loyens' letter was not adequate. His deposition comments diminished the credibility of religious leaders, he said.

"It's not the Athabascan way to take someone's spirit and bring them down like that," he said.

Fairbanks resident Kathy McLellan, formerly of Tanacross, had harsher words for Loyens' deposition comments.

"It's an insult to me and Athabascan mothers," she said.

Diana Campbell can be reached at 459-7523.


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