6 allege abuse by 3 priests
Siblings from Salem Area Seek $19.5 Million from Catholic Order
By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal [Oregon]
January 12, 2006
Six adult siblings -- three women and three men -- filed suit Wednesday accusing three now-deceased priests of sexually abusing them in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they were children.
The plaintiffs, ranging in age from 43 to 52, live in Salem, Keizer, Falls City, Amity and Sherwood. The suit identifies them only with initials.
They are seeking a total of $19.5 million, citing enduring emotional pain and suffering left by childhood sexual abuse. They say the abuse was inflicted by the Rev. Bernard Harris; his brother, the Rev. James Harris; and the Rev. Maurice Grammond.
Grammond, who died in 2002, left behind a long string of alleged abuse victims. He has been named in other priest-abuse lawsuits, which remain unsettled because of the 2004 bankruptcy filing of the Portland Archdiocese.
Daniel Gatti, a Salem lawyer who represents numerous priest-abuse plaintiffs, including the six area siblings, said the abuse they suffered makes this case the worst he has encountered.
"I've handled over 60 of these cases," he said. "The facts of this case are more egregious and more devastating and more damaging than any case I've had, and I've had some doozies. What sets it apart is that it's almost a whole family, and it's the nature of the abuse."
All of the plaintiffs have sought therapy for problems linked to decades-old abuse, Gatti said.
Named in the suit is the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, a Catholic religious order that is separate from the Portland Archdiocese. Like the archdiocese, the province has been hit by a flurry of sexual-abuse suits in recent years.
Many of the complaints filed against the province have alleged priest abuse in remote Alaskan Eskimo villages.
The province covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
Province officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
According to the suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the family initially received attention from James Harris after a 1968 fire destroyed the family's home in Silverton.
At that time, the suit says, Harris took up a collection for the family, ministered to them and began a relationship that made him a key figure in the children's lives.
While allegedly grooming the children for sexual abuse, the priest sometimes was accompanied by his brother, Bernard Harris, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that Bernard Harris sexually abused four of the children, three girls and a boy. It alleges that James Harris and Grammond sexually abused three of the children, all boys, when they stayed with the two priests at a rectory in Seaside.
agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6709
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