Portland Archbishop Apologizes after Abuse Claim
August 27, 2012
REEDSPORT, Ore. -- The archbishop of Portland issued an apology that was read at Sunday Mass to a woman who settled a lawsuit claiming she was sexually abused by a priest in the 1980s.
Carolee Horning, 41, was at St. John the Apostle Parish in Reedsport when the letter from Archbishop John Vlazny was read, the Eugene Register-Guard (bit.ly/Nxzh51) reported.
The priest, the Rev. Edward Altstock, was a family friend when he headed the parish from 1984 to 1986, and Horning was a teenager who had been an altar girl.
She said she was flattered by gifts and attention from such a figure of authority, and he pursued her for years, even visiting her in Corvallis when she was a student at Oregon State University.
"Father Altstock was a friend of the Horning family and took unfair advantage of the high regard in which the family held him," said the letter read by Monsignor Dennis O'Donovan, the second-ranking official in the archdiocese. "He was a trusted pastor and betrayed that trust."
The Register-Guard said Altstock was not charged with a crime because the situation was beyond the statute of limitations. He declined to comment on the case, the newspaper said.
Calls Monday from The Associated Press to a number listed for Altstock went unanswered.
This summer, the archdiocese, which does not dispute the claims of a sexual relationship, settled with Horning for $480,000 and the promise of a personal apology from the pulpit.
At the 8:45 a.m. service, Horning sat between her father and mother, who are still members of the congregation. They were among more than 100 people in the church, including a contingent visiting from a Lutheran church that Horning joined last year.
She said the letter was not wholly satisfactory because it devoted more words to the archdiocese's response to her allegations than it did to expressing regret or offering apologies.
"I wasn't very comfortable with them trying to defend themselves," she said.
Horning manages an animal hospital. She said the abuse "stunted my growth."
"I have hardly dated," she said. "I have never had a boyfriend. I have just hidden away. When girls my age were learning how to date and flirt and stuff - I just didn't do that."
The archdiocese, which covers churches in western Oregon, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 as a result of suits from people who said priests sexually abused them as children. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2007 with a $50 million settlement of more than 175 claims. Another $20 million was set aside to handle future claims.
Horning's lawyer, Gilion Dumas, said the amount of the settlement is a matter of public record because the federal bankruptcy court maintains jurisdiction. The suit sought $14 million.
Efforts by the AP to reach Horning were unsuccessful.
With the settlement money, Horning said, she paid off her car, and she's planning to take her family to Disneyland. The rest is going into retirement investments.
"It wasn't about the money," she said. "That was one of the reasons I settled. If you go to trial, all you can get is money."