Court Papers Detail Concerns about Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse

The Associated Press, carried in KGW [Seattle WA]
September 28, 2006

Leaders of a Roman Catholic order of priests worried for decades that the Rev. Michael Toulouse was a pedophile, but opted to move him rather than report him to police, an attorney representing several victims said.

Citing internal documents discovered in a U.S. District Court lawsuit against the Society of Jesus in Seattle, attorney Mike Shaffer said the Jesuit priest continued to molest boys after he was transferred from Spokane to Seattle University in 1950.

Shaffer represents several of Toulouse's alleged victims, and told The Spokesman-Review in a story published Thursday that he knows of a dozen men who were sexually abused by the priest, who taught philosophy at Seattle University.

Toulouse died in 1976.

In 1968, he allegedly assaulted a 12-year-old boy, the basis of the lawsuit against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit order of priests.

"At least a dozen victims have been identified by now who suffered assaults from Toulouse's aggressive, predatory pedophilia," attorneys for the victim, identified only as "J.C.," wrote in the court filings Wednesday.

In court documents, Jesuit lawyers say the victim seeks $1.5 million.

Documents dating back six decades show Jesuit leaders knew Toulouse was a pedophile, but took no action, Shaffer alleges.

"They turned a monster loose in Seattle," he said.

Court filings contend Toulouse cultivated friendships with Catholic families, and then groomed their sons for sexual abuse even as Jesuit leaders worried about his behavior.

As early as 1938, Jesuit leaders suggested that the priest should leave the order, stating he "does not seem to understand the meaning of obedience," according to minutes from a provincial meeting marked "Confidential."

Twelve years later, a distraught father took a handgun to Gonzaga University to confront Toulouse, who taught at nearby Gonzaga High School and lived on the college campus.

Seattle University's administrators objected to the priest's subsequent transfer, the court documents indicate.

In a December 1950 letter to Jesuit leaders, Seattle University President the Rev. Albert A. Lemieux said he understood Toulouse was being transferred "because he had to be got out of Spokane."

In December 1960, Lemieux wrote to the Rev. Alexander F. McDonald, who led the Jesuits, that "perhaps (Toulouse's) usefulness to a university has run its course."

A year later, Lemieux again expressed unspecified "problems" with Toulouse, suggesting he should be moved.

In 1963, Lemieux listed Toulouse as one of several priests who were "a source of worry in the classroom and elsewhere for various reasons."

Earlier this month, Northwest Jesuit leader the Rev. John Whitney of Portland, Ore., revealed that police and Gonzaga University officials collaborated in 1969 to cover up sexual abuse by former university President John P. Leary, who was also transferred elsewhere.

Whitney told The Spokesman-Review this week that he it was not clear that Gonzaga leaders knew of the abuse before Toulouse was transferred to Seattle, but "if that's true, it's morally repugnant."

Whitney said he considers it his mission to acknowledge the failures of past Jesuit leaders in order to prevent it from happening again.

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


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