|Documents Identify Former Local Priest in Single Claim of Sexual Abuse
By Karen McCowan
November 27, 2008
A Vida man’s name surfaces when a judge releases records tied to lawsuits filed against the Portland archdiocese
A former local priest is among Roman Catholic clergymen named in documents released Wednesday by order of U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in connection with lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse.
The documents are the latest public disclosure from the April 2007 settlement of an Archdiocese of Portland bankruptcy case arising from 175 sexual abuse claims by former parishioners.
The archdiocese paid $77 million to settle the lawsuits in exchange for continuing its operations without selling any parish or school properties.
The latest documents became public after the Eugene judge arbitrated a dispute between abuse survivors and the archdiocese over the records. Hogan’s decision was lauded Wednesday in a statement by Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who represented more than 40 victims of what he called “pedophile priests.”
Clark said Hogan’s decision forced the archdiocese to release “virtually all of the disputed categories of documents, including those regarding priests who had ‘only’ one claim of abuse filed.”
“I don’t know whether I am more gratified that a common sense federal judge with some guts has stared down the archdiocese or more disappointed that it took all this to get the archdiocese to honor its promises to release the old files,” said Clark of the 18-month legal battle. “Either way, this is a good day for survivors, and all the men and women abused as boys and girls by priests of this archdiocese can feel rightly proud that they have stood their ground and did not let the archdiocese back out of its commitments.”
Among priests identified in the documents as being implicated in a single incident is the Rev. Louis Rodakowski of Vida.
A November 2005 letter to Rodakowski from a diocese official refers to an April 2005 claim from a woman alleging that the former priest who worked in parishes in Salem, Newport, Junction City, Eugene and Vida sexually abused her when she was a minor.
“It is my understanding that part of the allegation you denied and part you admitted, specifically that you touched the young woman improperly,” the Rev. Dennis O’Donovan wrote Rodakowski. “Because of the seriousness of this admission and according to the Bishops’ Charter of 2000 as well as our own Archdiocesan policy, you are hereby placed on administrative leave. I realize that you are retired, but this administrative leave means that you are not to offer any public Masses or offer any pastoral services until there is a canonical disposition of your case.”
O’Donovan also wrote that the case had been settled in the bankruptcy claims process.
The only other document citing Rodakowski was a 2005 internal archdiocese memo stating that the church officials had made a mandatory child abuse report to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office regarding the accusations of sexual abuse against Rodakowski. State court records show that no criminal charges were filed.
Rodakowski’s career included leading the local St. Jude congregation during construction of its South Eugene church. Now 95, he lives in a small house overlooking the McKenzie River at the Goodpasture covered bridge.
In an interview there Wednesday, Rodakowski denied the abuse accusation.
“It was completely false,” he said, saying the young woman, whom he knew in Salem, accused him after he refused to lend her money. “I want to swear on it. I never fondled her — not at all.”
Rodakowski, who appears frail and uses a walker after suffering a stroke two years ago, said he could no longer recall when he served at various parishes. He said he did not recall acknowledging inappropriate behavior or being barred from leading public Masses or pastoral services.
In a statement, archdiocese officials thanked Hogan for “arbitrating this challenging case,” which required him to review thousands of pages of documents.
Archbishop John Vlazny agreed in April 2007 to the release of “relevant and appropriate documents” as “part of the healing process and in the interests of transparency.”
The archdiocese stressed that nearly all of the incidents of sexual misconduct cited in the documents occurred between 1940 and the mid-1980s. It said it now has comprehensive child-protection policies and programs in place and will continue to emphasize child safety.
Hogan agreed with church officials to withhold documents for priests with pending litigation, but only until those cases are resolved.
Clark announced the creation of a new Web site — www.archpdxpriestfiles.com — to make the released documents more accessible and understandable.
“We felt it was important,” he said, “in order to archive this issue, to present the material in a logical way, organized by priest and by parish, so the public can understand the history of the problem and, most importantly, the role of the bishops of the Portland Archdiocese in enabling and, in some cases, covering up, the child abuse problem.”
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