Jesuits Sued over Alleged Sex Abuse by Priests in Portland Area

Associated Press, carried in KATU
February 27, 2007

Portland, Ore. — Despite knowing that a priest had a history of "deviant sexual interest in young girls," Jesuit officials allowed him to transfer to Portland in the 1960s, and he went on to molest a young girl, a lawsuit filed Tuesday claims.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, is asking for more than $5 million in damages.

It claims the Jesuits are negligent for allowing the priest to be around young girls and are responsible for his conduct as well as the conduct of another priest accused of molesting the plaintiff.

Lawyers for the alleged victim announced the suit at a press conference Tuesday morning.

In response, Jesuit officials on Tuesday said in a press release that they took the claims very seriously and planned to investigate them "to the fullest extent."

"It is important to know that those who have come forward in these matters are not our enemies or our opponents but our sisters, for whom we desire healing and compassion," the Very Rev. John D. Whitney, the Provincial for the Oregon Province, said in the release. "We pray that together we may find a just solution for all involved, as well as for all the faithful who have been shaken by these allegations."

The Oregon-based province covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. It is separate from the Portland Archdiocese and reports to superiors in Rome outside the Vatican.

According to the suit, the Jesuit priest in question, the Rev. James E. Poole, was transferred to Portland despite what the suit calls "clear knowledge" by the Jesuits that he had a sexual interest in young girls.

The suit claims the Jesuits had received repeated complaints about Poole's sexual deviancy with minor girls at a boarding school in Alaska between 1960 and 1963. But they transferred him to Portland in 1964 with no apparent restrictions on contact with minors or females and without telling parents or parishioners of his past, the suit said.

The suit claims the girl in Oregon was 7 or 8 years old when she was molested by Poole as well as another priest, the late Rev. John Duffy, in 1964 and 1965. The abuse occurred when the priests visited her home, the suit said.

The girl had a relationship with both men while her family attended St. Cecilia's Parish in Beaverton and while she was a student at St. Mary of the Valley Academy, the suit said.

Duffy also worked at St. Luke's church in Woodburn from 1968 to 1970 and at Mount Angel Abby.

Duffy died in 1992. Poole is in an assisted living center in Spokane, Wash.

The alleged victim, who is now 48-years-old and a Portland resident, was not identified by name in the lawsuit.

According to lawyers for the plaintiff, this is not the first case the Jesuits have faced regarding Poole. An Alaska woman filed a similar lawsuit that was settled in 2005 for $1 million.

The plaintiff's lawyer said the lawsuit is not subject to the bankruptcy protection of the case involving priests filed against the Archdiocese of Portland and that his client makes no claim against the archdiocese, only the Jesuits.

In 2004 the Archdiocese of Portland became the first in the nation to file for bankruptcy protection against abuse lawsuits. It recently proposed a $75 million plan to settle more than 160 remaining claims against it.


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