Suit against St. Luke, Archdiocese Has Settled out of Court
By Tyler Francke
December 10, 2015
$8.5 million sex abuse-related lawsuit reportedly 'resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties'
An $8.5 million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, along with St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, has been dismissed following an out-of-court settlement.
The complaint, filed last year on behalf of an unnamed Salem boy, was in connection with a 2012 sex abuse case involving former local priest Angel Armando Perez.
Perez was a priest at St. Luke in August 2012, when he was charged with first-degree sex abuse (a Measure 11 offense), driving under the influence of intoxicants and two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Under the terms of a plea agreement, Perez pleaded guilty in April 2013 and was assessed the mandatory minimum sentence for the sex abuse charge — six years, three months — which he is currently serving at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla.
The complaint was filed by the conservator and family of Perez’s victim, who was 12 at the time and who is identified in court documents only as “J.T.”
The case was scheduled for trial in Multnomah County court in March. However, on Oct. 26, a notice filed in the court record indicated the case had been dismissed “pending settlement,” and the trial and all other pending hearings were canceled.
David Renshaw, communications director for the archdiocese, confirmed last week that there had been a conclusion in the matter, but was unable to provide any details.
“The case was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” Renshaw said in a brief statement that he described as all that the parties were allowed to say.
Requests for comment from the Barton Law Firm in Newport, which represented the plaintiff, were not returned.
On the night of Aug. 12, 2012, the plaintiff was staying at Perez’s residence at the St. Luke rectory in anticipation of a camping trip the next day. Around midnight, the boy awoke to find Perez fondling his genitals and taking pictures with a mobile phone.
The victim fled the rectory, and several witnesses reported seeing Perez, in his underwear, chasing the boy down Woodburn streets.
The complaint claimed that Perez, in the course of his ministerial duties as a priest, had befriended the victim and established himself as a spiritual guide and trustworthy mentor, a practice it termed “grooming.”
The complaint further alleged it was “common knowledge” among archdiocese personnel that Perez “had a problem with alcohol” that began approximately a year before the August 2012 incident, related to the child sex abuse conviction of a close friend of Perez’s in California.
“Fr. Perez took this news hard and began drinking to excess,” the complaint read. “In the months prior to sexually abusing Plaintiff, Fr. Perez’s alcohol consumption became worse.”
The Barton firm’s suit alleged that Perez’s abuse was the result of the performance of his duties as assigned by the archdiocese and St. Luke, and further claims the defendants were negligent in the case.
“Defendants created a dangerous condition by allowing Fr. Perez to run a parish by himself in a small community when they knew or should have known that Fr. Perez was hosting boys overnight,” the complaint said. “Defendants knew or should have known that Fr. Perez posed an unreasonable risk of harm to minors through his conduct of hosting boys at his residence overnight.”
The complaint said Perez violated a number of standards of conduct that the archdiocese established following its 2004 bankruptcy filing, which had been precipitated by the more than $51 million it paid in damages to settle numerous claims of sexual misconduct by its priests.
In a prepared statement released at the time of the initial filing, a spokesman for the archdiocese called child abuse “a violation of all the Church teaches.”
He’d also said that the archdiocese had made numerous attempts to reach out to the victim’s family “to apologize, express concern and offer pastoral and other assistance.”
“We continue to keep the victim and his family in our prayers,” the spokesman said.
Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-765-1195.