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  Former Alter Boy Sues Archdiocese over 1940s Sexual Abuse

By Jason George
Associated Press State & Local Wire [Portland Ore]
July 27, 2001

A man who claims he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1940s has filed a $4 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland, in one of the oldest lawsuits involving sexual abuse by a priest.

"DA," now in his 70s, was an altar boy at All Saints Catholic Church in Portland at the time of the alleged abuse. He claims that the Rev. William McLeod, who died in 1969, abused him for at least five years, according to attorney Kelly Clark. DA, now a taxi driver, partially blames past alcohol and marriage problems, as well as homophobia toward a gay son, on the abuse he claims he repeatedly suffered.

Archdiocese officials said Friday they have not seen the complaint, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday. They said they had no record of molestation by McLeod and first heard of DA's complaint "by letter from his attorney demanding a large payment."

Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the archdiocese, issued a statement Friday saying that dealing with a lawsuit involving events in the 1940s and a priest who died over 30 years ago "presents great challenges to the legal system as well as to the Archdiocese."

According to the statement, Archbishop John Vlazny encourages those who feel they've been abused to go the archdiocese.

Richard Sipe, a former priest and expert in sexual abuse cases, said from La Jolla, Calif., Friday that DA's case was the oldest case of sexual abuse involving a priest where a lawsuit had been filed.

Oregon law allows victims of child abuse to file claims even if alleged sexual abuse took place decades earlier. Under the state's statute of limitations, a victim must file a lawsuit within three years of becoming aware of psychological or other damage that arose from the abuse.

DA said he made the connections between his problems and his childhood abuse in the summer of 2000.

In 1999, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the archdiocese can be held liable as the employer of an abusive priest. Plaintiffs in the past had to show that officials from institutions involved in the care of children knew or should have known that an employee was molesting a child.

Last year, the archdiocese settled a lawsuit filed by 23 former altar boys who said they had been abused by Rev. Maurice Grammond, who served parishes in Portland, Oakridge, Seaside and other rural churches until he retired in 1986. In May, 14 other men filed a separate suit against Grammond and the archdiocese.

Four men also are suing the archdiocese for alleged abuse in the 1960s and 1970s involving Rev. Aldo Orso-Manzonetta, who served as parish priest at St. Michael's in Portland from 1959 to 1983 and at St. Peter's in Newberg from 1984 until 1989. He was transferred to Sacred Heart Parish in Tillamook in 1990 and served until 1994 when he retired. He died in 1996.

The trial for that case is to begin in September.

 
 

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