Chaplain Accused of Abuse to Keep Quiet

The Associated Press, carried in [Oregon]
May 11, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former prison chaplain accused of sexually abusing boys more than two decades ago intends to invoke doctor-patient and clergy-penitent confidentiality laws to resist answering some questions during a sworn deposition scheduled for next week.

In a motion filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the lawyer for one of the alleged victims says the Rev. Michael Sprauer plan to use the doctor-patient law in response to questions about any diagnosis or treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as any treatment he may have received for "sexual disorders or deviant behavior."

Moreover, the Roman Catholic priest intends to invoke the clergy-penitent privilege for anything reported in confidence to another clergyman about allegations of sexual abuse, according to a filing by attorney Erin K. Olson that was reported by The Oregonian in its Wednesday editions.

Sprauer, a former prison chaplain at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, has denied the accusations by 17 men who say Sprauer molested them in the 1970s.

In the motion, Olson's client asks Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris to rule on whether Sprauer should be allowed to assert the two privileges during the deposition.

The deposition is one of many taking place prior to Aug. 8, when the first batch of cases against Sprauer, and other priests and employees of the Archdiocese of Portland are scheduled to go to mediation.

As of Tuesday, 245 men and women had filed sex-abuse claims against the archdiocese amounting to nearly $517 million. After already settling more than 130 sex-abuse lawsuits for $53 million, the potential of hundreds of millions in additional claims prompted the archdiocese to seek Chapter 11 reorganization last summer.

According to the motion, Sprauer's lawyer, Thomas E. Cooney, said he would object on principle to questions about Sprauer's sexual contact with other males and his obedience to his vow of celibacy.

Sprauer was ordained in 1972 and served as a prison chaplain for nearly 24 years, most of them at the Oregon State Correctional Institution. He retired in 1999, according to Perrin Damon, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.

He also served in a variety of pastoral and administrative positions at parishes in Eugene, Salem, Keizer, Sublimity and Corvallis.

When he became the subject of sex-abuse lawsuits in 2003, he was placed on administrative leave.