Lawyer Asks for Church Counseling Aid after Third Suicide by Sex-Abuse Claimant

By Steve Woodward
The Oregonian [Oregon]
August 17, 2005

One of the 66 clergy sexual-abuse claimants now in mediation with the Archdiocese of Portland shot himself to death, prompting his lawyer to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to free up money for emergency counseling for the others.

Larry Lynn Craven, a 49-year-old Marion County man who had been identified in court records only as John Doe or L.C., died on July 21, according to the county's vital statistics office. Daniel J. Gatti, his lawyer, said he shot himself.

Craven's case was scheduled for mediation Aug. 29.

"This isn't a case about money," Gatti said. "It's a case about healing."

Craven's suicide is the third among sexual-abuse plaintiffs in recent months. Peter Ryan, 44, of Portland, who received a $1 million settlement for abuse by the late Rev. Maurice Grammond, committed suicide in February. Steven D. Colvin, 43, of Portland, who had accused the Rev. Michael Sprauer of abusing him when he was a teenage inmate of MacLaren School for Boys, killed himself in December.

Gatti's motion asks U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris to allow the archdiocese to pay for counseling for any claimants who are at risk for harming themselves or others.

"Time is of the essence," Gatti writes in an affidavit accompanying the motion. "My clients are deeply troubled, and the mediation process is not making it any easier on them."

The archdiocese offered condolences in a statement Monday as it began the second of six weeks of settlement talks.

"The archdiocese has no direct information about any of the events described in the motion, nor the cause of those events," the statement said, "but is very sorry to hear about loss of life under any circumstances.

"The archdiocese has provided counseling in the past for many people, but the bankruptcy has presented obstacles to our past practice. The archdiocese is open to exploring ways of continuing its policy."

Gatti said the archdiocese, before its July 2004 bankruptcy filing, provided 10 weeks of free counseling to persons with credible claims of sexual abuse -- more if the counselor agreed to it.

However, his legal filing states, the archdiocese "rightfully" stopped making payments for counseling services because it needed the bankruptcy court's permission to make certain expenditures.

Gatti suggests that the archdiocese be allowed to spend as much as $3,500 for each claimant.

Gatti added in an interview that state-sponsored counseling services are, in essence, unavailable because of budgetary problems. The alternatives are private health insurance that covers mental health or out-of-pocket payments.

Craven had sought more than $2 million in his claim against the archdiocese. He accused the Rev. John MacNaughton of molesting him in the spring of 1967.

Gatti said his next step is to have someone appointed as the personal representative of Craven's estate and to pursue the claim against the archdiocese as a wrongful death.