Retired Jesuit Superior Apologizes for Comments
Abuse: Rev. William Loyens Sends Message to Tanana Chiefs Conference

Associated Press, carried in Anchorage Daily News [Fairbanks AK]
Downloaded March 19, 2004

FAIRBANKS -- The former supervisor of a Jesuit priest accused of fondling Alaska Native boys has written a letter of apology to the Tanana Chiefs Conference for comments made in a deposition.

"I am aware that certain remarks made during my recent deposition have received widespread attention and that people have found them hurtful," the Rev. William Loyens wrote in a letter to Harold Brown, president of the conference.

"For this I am sorry and I apologize."

Brown said he was happy that Loyens wrote the letter.

"He did not necessarily retract his statements," Brown said. "But I'm glad for the apology."

The conference is a tribal consortium of 42 villages in Interior Alaska promoting unity and self-determination.

Loyens, 77, who holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology, said in a deposition that he thought the alleged abuse would not have much effect on the victims 30 or 40 years ago because their culture was "fairly loose" on sexual matters. The deposition is part of a lawsuit brought by eight men who claim they were abused as boys in Western Alaska villages.

"I do not believe I said, nor did I mean to imply, that sexual molestation would have little effect on Native Alaskans because their culture was 'fairly loose' on sexual matters," Loyens said in the March 15 letter.

"What I said, speaking as an anthropologist, is that I think the general American culture is much more uptight about sexual matters. I think there is a different attitude toward sexual matters within Athabascan and Yupik cultures. I might add that I think overall, these cultures have a fairly healthy attitude about sex."

The letter also was passed out to about 300 people at the conference convention here this week, but not everyone was convinced of the sincerity of the apology.

"I read the whole deposition," Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "I didn't see anything taken out of context.

"After reading his letter of apology, I didn't feel better."

Neither did Fairbanks resident Kathy McLellan, formerly of Tanacross. She had harsh words for Loyens' deposition comments.

"It's an insult to me and Athabascan mothers," she said.

In the lawsuit, the men contend the late Rev. Jules Convert, a Jesuit village priest, fondled them between 1955 and 1977 as they slept or, in one case, watched a movie. Seven of the men were altar boys in St. Marys, Kaltag or Unalakleet. The eighth lived in a Holy Cross orphanage overseen by Convert.

Loyens, a former Jesuit superior of Alaska, is now retired in Spokane, Wash. He was called as a witness by an attorney for the Northern Alaska Diocese and was deposed at law offices in Spokane on Jan. 6.

The entire transcript, which covered about three hours of questioning, was released to The Associated Press by attorney Kenneth Roosa, who represents the men.

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