Jesuits Urged to Give Full Disclosure on Sex Abuse
By John Iwasaki
Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Spokane WA]
October 4, 2006
Elsie Boudreau said she was only 10 when a Jesuit priest, now retired and living in Spokane, first molested her in Alaska.
The abuse ended when she was 19 after "I wrote a letter to him and told him I never wanted to be alone with him," said Boudreau, now 38 and living in Anchorage. "He admitted everything."
Boudreau, who won a $1 million settlement in 2005 after filing a lawsuit for alleged abuse, appeared Tuesday in Seattle with lawyers and other victim advocates to demand that Jesuit authorities in the Northwest "come clean."
They want the names of "proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive Jesuits" to be made public, as well as disclosure of "secret documents" about them. They asked that alleged perpetrators be removed from public ministry and kept away from campuses and young people.
For the most part, those actions already have been done or are under way, responded the Rev. John Whitney, provincial supervisor of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
Whitney said the Jesuits have spent $8.5 million to settle more than 25 cases of alleged abuse in the four years that he has led the province. An additional 40 or so cases are under investigation. Most of the cases occurred in the mid-1980s.
As the province becomes aware of allegations of sexual abuse of minors, Jesuits are removed from active ministry, even as investigations are ongoing, Whitney said from his Portland office.
"We haven't asked anyone to be quiet" in the settlement agreements, Whitney said, adding that the province even hired a public relations firm to ensure that the news media was aware of recent developments in cases involving the Revs. Michael Toulouse and John Leary, former president of Gonzaga University.
"Do we have confidential personnel files? Certainly we do. But we have no secret files of child abuse," Whitney said.
Boudreau and other victims advocates held a news conference on the sidewalk outside Seattle University. The Rev. Stephen Sundborg, the school's president, "knows a great deal (about abusive priests) and shared very little of it," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Clohessy wants Sundborg to reveal all he knows about the Rev. James Poole, whom Boudreau said was "like a father figure to me," yet molested her in two Alaska cities starting in the late 1970s.
Poole was a chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma in 1993 when he first was accused of sexually abusing children and removed from ministry. At that time, Sundborg was head of the Oregon Province.
Though Jesuit authorities knew Poole was a perpetrator, Boudreau said, "they chose instead to protect the church" by moving him around.
Poole, now in his 80s, lives in an assisted-living facility for Jesuits near Gonzaga University in Spokane and is under strict supervision, Whitney said.
In a statement Tuesday, Seattle University officials said they will "always disclose the names of any priest, living or deceased, whom we have reason to believe has sexually abused minors. Seattle University has zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor. There are no Jesuits on this campus who have been alleged or accused of child sex abuse."
University officials said that they are aware of two priests who taught at the school and abused minors. One is Toulouse, a faculty member from 1950 until his death in 1976.
Whitney said the Jesuits will release the name of the other priest, who is deceased and whose sexual abuse of a minor in California was only recently learned, after they notify those with whom the priest had ministered.
Sundborg said he was "angered by the violation of trust and saddened by the anguish and pain that victims have endured all these years. ... It is profoundly important that we step forward and create an environment of acknowledgement and healing for both the victims and our community."
John Manly, a lawyer from Newport Beach, Calif., said that he knew of more than 100 abuse cases in the Oregon Province and had filed 10 civil suits.
Whitney said the majority of those cases are in Alaska, with about 50 cases involving an Alaskan man who volunteered with the Jesuits but was never a priest.
In a statement, he also said that the Jesuits have "not sought to deny or to equivocate, but to listen and support those women and men who have come forward, and to face them -- and all those whose faith has been shaken by these revelations -- with a deep sense of sorrow, a sincere apology for past wrongs, and an unwavering pledge to do all we can to ensure that such actions do not occur in the future."
P-I reporter John Iwasaki can be reached at 206-448-8096 or email@example.com.
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