|Three Tell Jurors Priest Hurt Them
Abuse Cases - the Testimony of Those Who Didn't Settle with the Portland Archdiocese Will Help Determine Payment
By Steve Woodward
The Oregonian [Portland OR]
March 14, 2007
More than seven years after an avalanche of priest sexual-abuse claims began to engulf the Archdiocese of Portland and more than 32 months after the church's bankruptcy froze all lawsuits, some accusers finally had their first day in court Tuesday.
In a long day filled with emotional testimony, three former parishioners of the Rev. Donald Durand took the stand in U.S. District Court in Portland and poured out accusations of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.
The so-called mini-trials, which will occur this week and next, will help U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones set estimated values for the dozen-plus abuse cases that have not been settled in the bankruptcy case. More than 140 priest accusers have agreed to settle their claims for about $40 million.
Each six-member jury will determine whether the alleged abuse probably occurred and, if so, what the emotional damages are worth.
The three plaintiffs who testified Tuesday are among at least nine men who have filed claims against the archdiocese for sexual abuse allegedly committed by Durand, who retired in 2001.
The first case Tuesday involved a 38-year-old civil engineer who said Durand sexually abused him during a trip to the priest's mountain cabin near Detroit Lake about 1983, when he was 16.
Repeatedly dabbing at his eyes with tissues, he told the jury the purported abuse left him suffering from nightmares and led to several suicide attempts between 1998 and 2003. His older sister, in a statement read to the jury, wrote that he told her when he was about 16 that he was keeping a loaded gun for safety.
Most important, the man said, the abuse left him unable to have sex, either with men or women.
Because the man remembered the details of the abuse only after six sessions of guided relaxation with a therapist, the archdiocese argued that his memories fell into the category of "recovered memory." According to evidence presented by Thomas Dulcich, an attorney for the archdiocese, such memories are false memories implanted through improper therapy but which seem real to the patient.
In a videotaped deposition, Durand denied that he had ever engaged in any sort of sexual activity with boys, hundreds of whom had visited the cabin over the years.
Two students at St. Francis of Assisi School in Portland at the time of the alleged abuse, said Durand punished them by ordering them to wrestle naked and in their underwear at various times in the rectory basement. The men also said Durand took them and two other boys to his mountain cabin one weekend, ordered them to remove their clothes, spend time in a sauna, jump into a creek, then come back into the cabin to wrestle naked.
In a recorded video deposition shown earlier in the morning, Durand said he often invited boys into the sauna, because it was a good, healthy experience.
"I saw nothing wrong with it or nothing sexual about it," he said.
In addition, one man accused Durand of approaching him during an overnight stay in the parish rectory and playing a game he called "Front-door, back-door," in which the priest supposedly tried to grope him. The accuser said he didn't remember the incident until a few months ago.
Cynthia Steinhauser, a licensed clinical social worker, testified that one of the men is "a severely maimed individual" as a result of the alleged abuse.
"These were 12-year-old boys in a room with a man of immense authority," she said.
Dulcich, attorney for the archdiocese, objected to some of Steinhauser's testimony, accusing her of crossing the boundary from an independent expert to an advocate.
One accuser told the jury that the purported abuse resulted in his dropping out of school and the resulting illiteracy. The other said the alleged abuse caused his lifelong revulsion toward other men.
Steve Woodward: 503-294-5134; firstname.lastname@example.org
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