Yakima Catholic Diocese Settling 2 Abuse Lawsuits
By Jane Gargas
February 21, 2014
Two lawsuits brought against the Catholic Diocese of Yakima for alleged sexual abuse by clergy members are in the process of being settled.
A settlement agreement has been signed in the case of Michelle Duerre, who said she was sexually abused by three Jesuit priests during the 1970s.
The diocese has agreed to pay her $40,000. She alleged that the Revs. Frank Duffy, John Morse and James Poole abused her when she was between the ages of 8 and 12 and a student at St. Joseph/Marquette Catholic School.
Duerre said that Morse and Duffy abused her at the school and in the church rectory and that Poole abused her at the St. Peter the Apostle retreat house in Cowiche. She filed the suit in Yakima County Superior Court last March.
Now 45, Duerre lives in King County and asked that her name be made public in her suit against the diocese.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, Duerre said she decided not to go to trial because “the point wasn’t money; it was to bring the issue to the public. I feel like I got justice, and I got the word out and hopefully that will prevent something like this from going on in the future.”
Now deceased, Duffy served at St. Joseph Catholic Church from 1971 to 1979 and in other parishes in the diocese until 1989. Morse worked at St. Joseph’s from 1963 to 1966, 1973 to 1979 and again in 1994. Poole was never assigned here, but may have been a visiting priest.
Duffy was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff identified as M.P. in Superior Court in 2010. The plaintiff claimed she was molested in 1977 while a student at St. Joseph/Marquette. The case was settled in 2012 for $205,000.
Morse had not been named previously in a lawsuit against the diocese, but he was part of a $166 million settlement in 2011 the Jesuit Oregon Province agreed to pay to more than 100 victims who said they were abused in schools in the Pacific Northwest decades ago by Jesuits. Morse has denied those allegations.
Newsweek magazine reported in 2008 that Poole had been accused of sexual abuse in Alaska. Both Morse and Poole live in a retirement facility in Spokane.
In the second lawsuit, both the plaintiff, known as C.S. in court documents, and the Yakima Diocese have agreed in principle to a settlement of $75,000, according to Monsignor Robert Siler, diocese chief of staff. The agreement has not yet been signed.
C.S. alleged that the Rev. Ernest Dale Calhoun abused him beginning in 1977 when he was 12 and ending when he was 17. That case was filed in May 2013 in U.S. District Court in Yakima.
Calhoun worked as an associate pastor at St. Paul Cathedral Parish in the 1970s. He also worked in Kennewick, Benton City, Ephrata and Seattle.
He is no longer an active priest and is believed to be living in Texas.
Calhoun was previously named in at least two other clergy abuse lawsuits against the diocese.
In November 2012, a Yakima Valley man, identified as S.K., settled with the diocese for $50,000, alleging he had been abused by Calhoun.
S.K. said the abuse happened when he was a 15-year-old altar boy at St. Paul’s in the early 1970s.
The diocese settled another lawsuit naming Calhoun for undisclosed terms in 1994. Calhoun has denied any abuse occurred.
In the Duerre and C.S. cases, the plaintiffs were represented by the Tamaki Law firm in Yakima.
Siler said that in both instances, “We are very sorry for any abuse they may have suffered.”
He said that Bishop Joseph Tyson will be sending a letter of apology to both Duerre and C.S.
Additionally, Tyson will invite the plaintiffs to meet with him individually.
Duerre said she would think about talking with the bishop. “I’ll definitely entertain that,” she said.
Duerre indicated that she’s endured some rough spots since childhood but feels her life is on an upward trajectory. She said she’s making “huge” progress in putting the abuse she said she suffered behind her.
“I want people to know there’s help out there, that you can be helped. If I can come back from where I was, anyone can.”