Priest on Leave after Accusation He Molested Child

Associated Press, carried in Seattle Times [Tillamook OR]
April 3, 2007

Portland — A Roman Catholic priest in Tillamook is under investigation by police following accusations that he molested a child in Portland, church officials said.

The Rev. Joseph V. Hoang, 39, was put on administrative leave March 19 after the Portland Archdiocese received a report of sexual abuse, church spokesman Bud Bunce told The Oregonian newspaper.

Church officials later learned that a criminal investigation by Portland police already was under way, Bunce said.

Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a Portland police spokesman, confirmed an investigation but would not release details surrounding the case — including the alleged victim's age, the severity of the alleged abuse or when it might have occurred.

Priests and other Catholic officials are automatically placed on administrative leave when potentially credible sex-abuse allegations surface, Bunce said.

Church officials have not looked into the charges against Hoang and will wait for the police investigation to finish before deciding what to do next, Bunce said.

The allegations did not involve a Sacred Heart parishioner, he said.

Francisco Ravelo, a Beaverton lawyer who represents Hoang, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Portland Archdiocese has been involved in lawsuits over priest sex abuse for at least two decades. But only one priest has ever been charged criminally in Oregon. The Rev. Thomas Laughlin pleaded guilty in 1983 to molesting two boys in Multnomah County. Laughlin is no longer a priest.

Police have investigated at least two other priests accused of abusing children.

The vast majority of priest-abuse claims in Oregon involve decades-old allegations that were too old to prosecute.

In Oregon, criminal charges generally must be filed against an alleged abuser before the victim turns 24. Civil suits, on the other hand, can be filed decades after the abuse occurred.

In 2004, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the country to seek bankruptcy protection from priest-abuse lawsuits. A $75 million settlement was reached late last year. It is expected to be approved this month.


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