Lawsuit Claims Three Priests Abused 6 Siblings 30 Years Ago

By Boaz Herzog
The Oregonian
January 12, 2006

A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court claims that three Catholic priests sexually abused four boys and two girls -- all siblings -- several decades ago after their Silverton family home burned down in a fire and they needed help.

The lawsuit named the Archdiocese of Helena, Mont.; the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus; and the personal representative of the estate of the Rev. Maurice Grammond as defendants.

The Rev. Paul Janowiak of the Northwest Jesuits said he had seen the lawsuit and could not comment. The Helena Archdiocese and the representative for Grammond could not be reached for comment.

The plaintiffs live in Oregon and are now between 43 and 52 years old. The sexual abuse began after their Silverton home was destroyed by fire in April 1968, according to the suit. The Rev. James M. Harris, who led the St. Paul's Parish at the time, became acquainted with the family when he took up a collection for them following the fire, according to the suit and Salem attorney Dan Gatti.

During the next several years, Gatti said, Harris sexually abused six of eight siblings who were between the ages of 5 and 14. The suit also claims that the Rev. Bernard M. Harris also abused the children when he accompanied his brother on visits to the family.

Sometime between 1969 and 1972, Grammond abused three of the children when James Harris took them to Seaside for a visit to the rectory, the suit said.

The abuse lasted until the mid-1970s, according to the suit.

Of the more than 60 priest sexual abuse cases that Gatti has litigated, "this is the saddest" and "by far, the most egregious," he said.

Each plaintiff is seeking at least $3.25 million in damages.

Bernard Harris died in 1972 and James Harris died in 1999. Grammond died in 2002, according to Portland attorney Erin Olson.

Boaz Herzog: 503-412-7072,


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