Court Papers Reveal Man Took Gun to Kill Priest for Abuse of Son

The Associated Press, carried in KGW [Spokane WA]
September 27, 2006

A man whose son said he had been sexually abused by a Jesuit priest took a gun to confront the priest at Gonzaga University in 1950 but was stopped, and the priest was moved to Seattle, according to court filings.

The episode is described in sworn statements filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle with a lawsuit against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus by people who claim they were abused by the once highly regarded priest, Michael Toulouse, who died in 1976, The Spokesman-Review reported Wednesday.

The Rev. John Whitney, head of the organization which overseas Jesuit priests in much of the Pacific Northwest, told the newspaper he believes molestation did occur but added that he could not find evidence to verify the account of the man with the gun or to show Gonzaga leaders knew Toulouse was a pedophile.

"If that's true, it's morally repugnant," Whitney said.

The lawsuit is separate from claims of priest abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which filed for bankruptcy in December 2004, and has meant more unwanted publicity for Gonzaga, which is run by the Jesuit order.

Earlier this month Whitney revealed that police, Jesuit and Gonzaga officials collaborated in 1969 to cover up sex crimes committed by former university President John P. Leary.

In out-of-court agreements the Jesuits have paid about $8 million to settle dozens of claims of sexual abuse by Jesuit priests in the region.

Toulouse, buried at Mount St. Michael Cemetery in Spokane, was a popular teacher who taught some of the brightest boys at Gonzaga High School, now Gonzaga Preparatory School, while living in the Jesuit house at St. Aloysius on the university campus.

According to news accounts from 1948, he was a psychologist as well as a brilliant teacher and openly criticized the educational system as a model for producing mediocrity rather than promoting intellect. His classes were described as freeform and unpredictable.

According to court filings, he asked altar boys to awaken him before Mass at St. Aloysius Church, sometimes sexually assaulted them, then swore them to secrecy and left cash on his dresser to buy their silence.

By one man's account, he was on his way to Mass at age 14 in 1950 when his father asked what was wrong and he said he had been abused by Toulouse.

At that, according to his sworn statement, the father got his .32-caliber pistol and the two went to St. Aloysius, where another priest saw the gun, intervened and summoned the president of Gonzaga at the time, the Rev. Francis E. Corkery, to defuse the situation.

No shots were fired and Toulouse was sent to teach philosophy at Seattle University over the objections of that school's administrators, according to court filings.

Decades later the Jesuits paid the man, now 70 and living in Western Washington, nearly $200,000 in an out-oif-court settlement, "but we had no record of any such report concerning his father," Whitney told the newspaper.

The Toulouse lawsuit covers his subsequent time in Seattle and is based partly on claims that Jesuit leaders knew he was a pedophile when they moved him.

According to the court filings, Toulouse befriended Catholic parents in Seattle and groomed their sons for sex — in one case three teenage brothers during the 1960s.

The case bears some resemblance to how Whitney described the sudden departure of Leary following years of rumors of sexual abuse: In 1969 police gave Jesuit leaders 24 hours to get him out of town or he would be arrested.

Leary left under cover of an official account that he had resigned for health reasons — and only when Whitney and his staff were ordered to produce archival records for the Toulouse case did they find documents revealing the true reason for Leary's departure.

Whitney said he informed Seattle U faculty and administrators last year that the accusations against Toulouse appeared to be credible and asked that the priest's name be stripped from a namesake lecture series. He is asking Gonzaga to do the same with Leary.


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