New Abuse Suit Filed against Priest
NOME: Complainant was just 7 when alleged incident occurred at catechism class.

By Lisa Demer
Anchorage Daily News
November 3, 2005

A new lawsuit contends that a Catholic priest exposed himself and sexually abused a girl back in 1968 or 1969 when she was 7 years old.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Nome Superior Court, follows three other lawsuits and an out-of-court case against retired priest James Poole.

The new suit also names the Fairbanks Diocese, the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province and the Society of Jesus, Alaska, as defendants.

The Catholic Church already has settled two of the cases against Poole. With the new complaint, three lawsuits now are pending against him.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jane Doe 4, who didn't want to use her real name because of the sensitive nature of the complaint, as is typical in civil suits alleging sexual abuse.

The plaintiff grew up in Nome. She wasn't Catholic but her parents wanted her to receive spiritual and moral instruction so sent her to catechism classes. The suit says that on the second day, Poole asked her to join him in a separate room. Poole sat her on his lap, pulled his cassock up and exposed his genitals, the lawsuit asserts.

"He then told her that they were going to 'play doctor' and laid her on a table," the suit said. He spread her legs and tried to touch her, but she was frightened and insisted he let her go back to the main room, the suit said. He let her go but told her to keep what happened a secret.

The plaintiff says she suffered emotional distress, embarrassment and loss of faith in God and the church as a result.

She's the youngest person to come forward and say she was victimized by Poole, said Anchorage lawyer Ken Roosa, who filed the suit and whose firm has taken the lead in Alaska on cases against priests and other religious leaders.

"Here we've got our very first ever inkling that Poole was using the catechism setting as means of accessing little kids," Roosa said.

He acknowledged that what she alleges isn't as severe as what some children say was done to them ---- rapes or multiple incidents of sexual abuse. But even one time can severely damage a child, he said.

"It's really just astonishing to me that a 7-year-old girl had the strength to walk away from that situation," he said.

Poole worked in Holy Cross, Pilot Station, Marshall, Mountain Village, St. Marys, Barrow and Nome, where he started a radio station.

"We are unaware of this. We had no knowledge of it. It makes it hard when something stems back to 1968," said Ronnie Rosenberg, human resources director for the Diocese of Fairbanks.

"Mostly what we are working on is prevention and going forward and apologizing to anyone who was hurt."

Dozens of people have filed suit or otherwise made claims against the Fairbanks diocese and the Jesuits, claiming they were sexually abused by priests and others as children. In addition, the Anchorage diocese was sued last month by a man who said he was sexually abused numerous times as a teenager by former Anchorage priest Frank Murphy.


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