Jury Hears Priest Child-Sexual Abuse Allegations for First Time

By Steve Woodward
The Oregonian [Portland OR]
March 13, 2007

For the first time, a jury has heard child sexual-abuse allegations in the priest scandal that has consumed the Archdiocese of Portland for the past seven years and sent it into bankruptcy.

A 38-year-old engineer accused a retired archdiocesan priest, the Rev. Donald Durand, of sexual abuse during a trip to Durand's mountain cabin near Detroit Lake in the early 1980s.

The man is one of at least nine men who have filed claims against the archdiocese for sexual abuse allegedly committed by Durand, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s.

During the next two weeks, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones is holding a series of mini-trials to estimate the dollar values of unresolved sex-abuse claims against the archdiocese. In the first case, Jones instructed the jury to determine whether the alleged abuse probably happened and, if so, what the emotional damages are.

The estimates will help determine whether enough money is set aside in the archdiocese's reorganization plan to pay settlements and possible future judgments. The reorganization plan is now being voted on by the archdiocse's creditors, most of whom are sex-abuse claimants.

The plaintiff is among a minority of claimants who have not settled their cases against the archdiocese. More than 140 claimants reached settlements in recent mediations.

The man testified that he recalled the details of his abuse, which included masturbation and forced oral sex, after six sessions of guided relaxation with a therapist. He said that since the alleged abuse, when he was 16, he has not been able to lead a normal life, sexually or emotionally.

Thomas Dulcich, an attorney for the archdiocese, called the man's memories "recovered memories" and presented evidence that such memories have been discredited by scientific studies. Recovered memories, according to videotaped testimony from a clinical professor at Oregon Health and Science University, are false memories implanted by therapists but which seem real to the patient.

Durand faces accusations that he required four schoolboys from St. Francis of Assisi Parish to strip to their undershorts and wrestle with him and with one another, strip naked and be in a sauna with him.

Another accuser said Durand made him flog the priest's bare back with a leather strap; he also said Durand took him to a beach cabin, immobilized him during the night and sexually abused him. Durand did acknowledge in a deposition that he once instructed a boy to hit him with a belt.

Other accusations against Durand included fondling, oral and anal sex. One accuser, a 23-year-old Portland man, said Durand molested him as recently as the 1990s, potentially making the priest subject to criminal prosecution. But the man has dropped his claim and refused to cooperate with police.

In a videotaped deposition, Durand denied that he had ever engaged in any sort of sexual activity with boys, hundreds of whom had visited the cabin over the year.

The jury began deliberations about 12:30 p.m. and were still deliberating an hour later.


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