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  Details in '50s Abuse Revealed;
Popular GU High Priest Relocated

By John Stucke
Spokesman Review [Spokane WA]
September 27, 2006

A gun-wielding man walked onto the Gonzaga University campus one night in 1950 threatening to kill a Jesuit priest named Michael Toulouse. The university president and another priest stopped him before he could fire a shot at Toulouse for sexually assaulting his 14-year-old son, according to sworn statements filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Gonzaga and Jesuit leaders soon moved Toulouse out of town, those documents say.

Toulouse, who died in 1976 and is buried at Spokane's Mount St. Michael Cemetery, was a popular teacher at Gonzaga High School - now called Gonzaga Preparatory School - and lived in the Jesuit house at St. Aloysius on the university campus. He taught some of the best and brightest boys and was an early critic of an education system he claimed focused on achieving mediocrity rather than rewarding intellect. His classes were free-form and unpredictable, according to press accounts from 1948. Toulouse was brilliant; a psychologist, teacher and mentor. And a pedophile.

He would ask altar boys to awaken him before mass at St. Aloysius Church in the mornings, according to the lawsuit. Sometimes he would sexually assault them, swear them to secrecy and buy their silence with cash left on his dresser.

When his behavior resulted in an armed man on campus, the university's Jesuit leadership sent Toulouse to Seattle University, over the objections of that school's administrators.

The Rev. John Whitney, who leads the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, said he believes molestation occurred but can't find any supporting evidence that the victim's father brought a gun to campus in 1950, or even that Gonzaga leaders knew Toulouse was a pedophile.

"If that's true, it's morally repugnant," Whitney said of the allegation. The Oregon Province oversees Jesuits in Spokane and Seattle.

Whitney said the Jesuit society paid the victim, now a 70-year-old living in Western Washington, nearly $200,000 to settle his claim. "But we had no record of any such report concerning his father."

That distinction is a fine line.

The Jesuit society is being sued by other Toulouse victims in Seattle who say the priest's pedophilia was known to Jesuit leaders when they shipped him to Seattle.

Whitney and the victim from Spokane consider themselves friends with disparate legal interests.

The Toulouse episode came 19 years before the cover-up surrounding revered former Gonzaga President, John P. Leary.

In a shocking announcement earlier this month, Whitney disclosed that Jesuits, Gonzaga officials and Spokane police hid their knowledge of sex crimes committed by Leary, who died in 1993.

Though rumors had circulated for years, it wasn't until police in 1969 delivered an ultimatum to the Jesuit leadership: Leary had 24 hours to leave Spokane, or he would be arrested.

Leary's departure was masked as a resignation for health reasons. The story died there even as rumors persisted for decades.

It wasn't until Whitney and his staff were ordered to produce archival documents as part of the Toulouse lawsuit in Seattle that the rumors were substantiated by unearthed documents and meeting notes.

Whitney said he does not know if Leary went on to sexually abuse more boys during work at other universities. In apologizing for the actions of his predecessors, Whitney surmised that fear of a scandal and harm to Gonzaga drove the Leary cover-up.

The Jesuit claims are outside the scope of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which filed for bankruptcy in December 2004 amid dozens of claims of sexual abuse by diocesan priests.

While in Seattle, Toulouse taught philosophy.

Seattle victims say Toulouse formed friendships among Seattle Catholics and groomed their young sons for sex. One family claims that Toulouse molested three of their boys as teens in the 1960s.

The Jesuits have paid settlements to Toulouse victims in Seattle outside the legal system. Sometimes that's impossible to accomplish, Whitney said, and lawsuits become necessary.

In Spokane, Toulouse's victim described in the Seattle lawsuit how he was on his way to Mass with his father when he was asked what was wrong. When the boy told Toulouse's secret, his father retrieved his .32-caliber pistol and the two of them drove to St. Aloysius.

A priest saw the gun, intervened and called upon Gonzaga's president, the Rev. Francis E. Corkery, to help calm the situation.

The victim says in court documents that he's upset they did not report Toulouse to police because of the priest's abuse of Seattle children.

The Jesuits have paid about $8 million to settle dozens of claims that its priests have sexually abused children throughout the Northwest.

Whitney said he wrote a widely distributed letter last year to Seattle University faculty and administrators informing them of credible allegations against Toulouse and asking that the name of the priest be stripped from a namesake lecture series.

Whitney is asking Gonzaga to do the same regarding Leary.

"These men are not deserving," he said.

Whitney said he wants his tenure as leader of the Jesuit society to be marked by the healing of sex abuse victims.

"If we think this is a distraction from our mission, we are wrong," he said. "This is our mission."

 
 

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