Man Sues Archdiocese in Portland, Alleging Abuse by a Priest in 1978

By Ashbel (Tony) Green
The Oregonian
August 30, 2002

Summary: A Eugene man accuses a priest who took a leave of absence from the church in 1981 and died in 1992

A Eugene man sued the Portland Catholic Archdiocese saying he was molested by a priest in 1978.

The man, who uses the initials "M.M." in his suit, claims that the Rev. Philip Steigerwald, then an assistant pastor at St. Paul's Catholic church in Eugene, repeatedly molested him on a trip through Oregon, Washington and Canada.

Prior to the abuse, archdiocese officials had learned that Steigerwald "was a danger to engage in sexual acts with teen-age boys and failed to notify the parish priest of St. Paul's or any of (the) parishioners of the known danger," according to the suit.

Michael Morey, the attorney for the plaintiff, said that Steigerwald left the church "under less than honorable circumstances" in 1981.

Steigerwald died in San Francisco in 1992 after he was hit by a car while crossing a street, Morey said.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, seeks more than $2 million.

Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he could not comment because he had not seen the suit.

Bunce said Steigerwald took a leave of absence from the priesthood in 1981.

About 100 people have sued the Portland archdiocese since December 1999, claiming they were abused by priests or religious.

Another 20 or so have sued the Baker Diocese, which covers east of the Cascade Mountains.

The suits accuse 30 priests and religious, most of whom are dead. They seek a total of more than $450 million in damages.

The archdiocese has settled with about 30 plaintiffs for an undisclosed sum, although it is thought to be substantially less than the suits were seeking.

The archdiocese has overhauled its policies to prevent abuse by clergy.


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