Sex-abuse Lawsuit Filed against Archdiocese of Portland Alleging Rape by Notorious Priest
By Helen Jung
October 31, 2013
|Father Maurice Grammond (undated photo)|
A 47-year old Washington County man is suing the Archdiocese of Portland for more than $6.3 million, saying it failed to prevent or rein in a known pedophile priest from raping and assaulting him as a boy in the 1970s.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland, is one of dozens that have been lodged over the years against the archdiocese regarding alleged sexual abuse by Father Maurice Grammond, who served as a priest for more than 40 years in Oregon. The archdiocese has paid out more than $33 million in settlements with 54 victims of Grammond -- more than for any other of its priests.
Grammond was suspended from the priesthood in 1991 and died 11 years later at a Gresham care home for Alzheimer’s patients.
"The archdiocese knew for 20 years before my client was abused that Father Grammond was molesting boys, and yet that whole time it did nothing," said Kristian Roggendorf, the attorney for the plaintiff, who is named only by pseudonym. "It’s unfortunate that the only recourse he has now is a civil lawsuit for his broken life."
The archdiocese first heard of the impending litigation about a month ago from Roggendorf, said spokesman Bud Bunce. He said while it is difficult to know what happened some 35 years ago, "we intend to handle this lawsuit carefully with the expectation that justice will be done."
According to the lawsuit, the abuse occurred between 1976 and 1978 when the boy was 11 to 13 years old. At the time, Grammond was the priest at Our Lady of Victory in Seaside.
Grammond gained the trust of the boy as he counseled him emotionally and spiritually in the year after a fire destroyed the boy’s home, the suit alleges. He also befriended him, offering him cigarettes and alcohol, the complaint states.
The abuse occurred during monthly visits the boy made to the rectory to collect payment for the parish’s newspaper subscription. The priest raped the boy and threatened to kill him and his family if he ever told anyone about the assaults, the lawsuit alleges.
The boy was raped at least 20 times, the lawsuit says, with the abuse stopping only after the boy quit his paper route, according to Roggendorf.
The plaintiff suppressed memories of the abuse. But he struggled through two decades of drug addiction and landed in prison numerous times, the lawyer said.
He was able to remain sober and stay out of prison for a time, Roggendorf said. Last year, after seeing a photo of Grammond in a news story, he began to recall the abuse he sustained, Roggendorf said. Oregon law allows victims to sue for childhood abuse until they reach age 40, or until five years after they realize the abuse has damaged them -- whichever is later.
The archdiocese should have acted long before the plaintiff was assaulted, the lawsuit contends. Parents of other Grammond victims had reported abuse to other priests or similar archdiocese representatives for years, dating back to 1957, the lawsuit alleges. But the archdiocese allowed Grammond to remain a priest with access to children.
The lawsuit claims the archdiocese is liable for the sexual battery of a child and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also accuses the archdiocese of negligence for allowing Grammond to remain a priest, failing to report sexual abuse complaints to the police, failing to monitor him and failing to warn those who came in contact with Grammond.
The suit seeks $6 million in noneconomic damages and $350,000 for continued counseling.
The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 over potential liability in a flood of priest sex abuse suits and emerged three years later. The archdiocese also set aside a pot of money to pay for future settlements with victims who did not file claims by a 2005 deadline.