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  Molestation Alleged at Portland Church

By Ashbel S. Green
The Oregonian
December 13, 2003

Summary: A 35-year-old man sues for $5.1 million, saying a priest repeatedly abused him during the mid-1980s

A 35-year-old man has filed a $5.1 million lawsuit claiming that a former Portland priest molested him in the mid-1980s.

The plaintiff, who filed the suit Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court under the initials "N.D.," claims that the Rev. Anthony Smith molested him repeatedly at Holy Redeemer Church in North Portland.

Smith was most recently chaplain and director of the Newman House at the University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif. On Wednesday, he was removed from his ministerial duties pending an investigation into the charges, said Sister Barbara Thiella, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton.

Such a move is standard since U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 adopted a policy to deal with a growing number of allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

Thiella said Smith, who belongs to the Denver province of a religious order called the Redemptorists, went to Stockton about two years ago. Thiella said she was not aware of any past accusations against him.

Thiella said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of the Stockton Diocese has "asked prayers for all involved and reiterated that the church is totally committed to a safe environment for all children and youth."

Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Portland Archdiocese, said in a statement that he could not comment because he had not seen the complaint. Bunce said Smith was associate pastor at Holy Redeemer Church from August 1984 until April 1986.

The Rev. Peter Connolly, provincial vicar of the Denver province of the Redemptorists, said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.

In the past four years, more than 170 people have sued the Catholic Church in Oregon, claiming they were sexually abused by priests and other religious and lay officials. The suits sought more than $600 million. About 100 have been settled for undisclosed sums.

The latest suit is unusual because most of the more than 50 accused priests, church and lay officials in Oregon are deceased. Smith is one of about a dozen who are alive.

In addition, the allegations against Smith are among the most recent in Oregon. While the suits claim abuse from the late 1930s to the late 1980s, most of the conduct is alleged to have occurred from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, according to an analysis by The Oregonian.

Kelly Clark, the Portland attorney representing N.D., said he suspects his client is not the only victim.

"A sad fact of many of these cases is that the priest has more than one victim," Clark said in a statement.

The lawsuit names Smith, the Portland Archdiocese, the Redemptorist Society and Holy Redeemer Church.

 
 

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