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  Past Corvallis Resident Joins Sex Abuse Suit
Alleged Abuse Took Place 35 Years Ago, While Priest Was Serving at St. Mary's

By Jim Murez
Gazette-Times
May 8, 2002

A former local resident is part of a lawsuit accusing Catholic priest Thomas B. Laughlin of sexually abusing him while he was a priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Corvallis.

Steve Smoley, 47, who now lives in Florence, said Laughlin sexually abused him between 1966 and 1974 while Smoley attended St. Mary's School and after he moved out of the area.

Laughlin was a priest at St. Mary's from 1966 to 1972. Smoley said the abuse at St. Mary's took place while he was in the seventh and eighth grades, in 1966 and 1967.

Bob Bottom heads out after a day's work building curbs, gutters and sidewalks along the First Street riverfront project Wednesday afternoon. The project is scheduled for completion by August.
Photo by Jennifer Jones / Gazette-Times

Smoley and two other men are part of an amended lawsuit filed Wednesday in Multnomah County District Court against the Archdiocese of Portland. The three men join a lawsuit filed March 20 by a person identified as P.H.

The lawsuit seeks for each plaintiff $4 million in compensatory damages for sexual abuse of a child, negligence/breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, and $25,000 in economic damages.

"I have always kept this a secret; it's been my deepest secret for the last 32 years or longer," Smoley said in a telephone interview from Florence. He said he is speaking up now because he feels "it's time to come forward."

Bud Bunce, director of communications for the archdiocese, said this was the first he had heard of the lawsuit.

Smoley was an altar boy while attending St. Mary's and had contact with Laughlin in connection with Mass and church services.

Lake Oswego attorney Michael Morey, who is representing Smoley, said the abuse happened "innumerable times. It was a continuous course of conduct."

Laughlin was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual abuse in 1983 for abusing altar boys. He is no longer an active priest. Laughlin left Portland in 1983 and is believed to live in New Mexico.

The other plaintiffs in the new case are James Clarizio and a third person identified as C.G. According to the lawsuit, Clarizio and C.G. were allegedly abused while Laughlin was the parish priest at All Saints School and Church in Portland.

The lawsuit alleges that the Portland Archdiocese and two of its archbishops were told that Laughlin had been accused of abusing children, the first report having been filed in 1965.

However, the suit alleges the archdiocese did not remove Laughlin and transferred him to other parishes and schools without informing parishioners of his history. The lawsuit states that through his position as priest, Laughlin induced and directed his alleged victims to engage in various sexual acts with him.

According to Smoley, the abuse started when Smoley was a seventh-grader, taking place after a confession. When Smoley's family moved to Portland and later to Modesto, Calif., the abuse continued on occasions when Smoley visited Laughlin or when Laughlin traveled to visit the family.

Smoley said he had told no one about the abuse while it was happening and was unaware whether Laughlin was abusing anyone else at the same time. Smoley said Laughlin stopped abusing him when he was 19 or 20 years old.

Smoley still belongs to and is active in the Catholic Church.

"My feeling is Jesus Christ and God didn't do this," Smoley said. "It was a bad man who happened to be a priest and some bishops who made some very poor decisions."

Jim Murez is city editor of the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 758-9527 or by e-mail at jim.murez@lee.net.

 
 

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