8 Men Allege Abuse in Suit against Su, Jesuit Order

By Janet I. Tu
The Seattle Times [Seattle WA]
July 12, 2007

Eight men have filed a lawsuit against Seattle University and the Jesuit order in the Northwest, claiming sexual abuse by the Rev. Michael Toulouse, a now-deceased Jesuit priest who taught at the school from about 1950 to 1976.

The suit, filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, contends that, dating back decades, some senior priests with the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, — including some who had served at Seattle University — had known and sometimes reported to superiors that Toulouse had molested minors but failed to act effectively to stop him.

Toulouse, who taught philosophy and died in 1976, was the subject of a previous sexual-abuse lawsuit against the Oregon Province. That 2005 case, in which a man accused Toulouse of molesting him in the Jesuit residence at the school when he was 12, was settled in November.

The plaintiffs in the suit were all minors, and not SU students at the time of the alleged abuses. But the suit contends that Toulouse exploited his status as a priest and an SU faculty member to get to know local Catholic families and groom some of their sons. The suit further claims some of the families complained to the Jesuits over the years but that ineffective action was taken.

An SU spokeswoman said it was premature for school leaders to comment on the lawsuit because they hadn't had a chance to review it.

The Very Rev. John Whitney, head of the Oregon Province, was traveling Wednesday and said he had not had time to thoroughly review the allegations.

But he said in a statement that these "are not the first allegations that we have received regarding Michael Toulouse, and if they are deemed to be credible, we will strive to respond as we have: with a firm commitment to healing and reconciliation. We do not seek to hide or deny what has happened, but to discover and set right what we can."

The lawsuit alleges that in the early 1950s, the province investigated a report from the father of one of the plaintiffs. The man said Toulouse had had sex with the man's son, who was an altar server at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane, where Toulouse celebrated daily Mass.

The suit further contends that at the time, Toulouse also was having sex with another boy who was a student at Gonzaga High School. The province then transferred Toulouse to Seattle University where, the suit claims, the then-president knew of the allegations against Toulouse in Spokane.

In Seattle, Toulouse befriended local Catholic families.

Five brothers from two families are among the plaintiffs in Tuesday's suit. The parents in one of the families reported the abuse to the Rev. James McGoldrick, a Jesuit priest and leader at Seattle University, who agreed to keep Toulouse away from the family, according to the suit.

The seventh plaintiff is the son of a Roman Catholic family from Vancouver. On Toulouse's invitation, the family sent their son to visit the priest at Seattle University for a week, during which Toulouse abused him, the suit contends.

The eighth plaintiff was abused by Toulouse after McGoldrick arranged for the priest to serve as a "big brother" to the boy, the suit said. The boy's mother called McGoldrick, and she and another priest wrote letters to the Jesuit community requesting action against Toulouse, according to the suit.

Some of these allegations had come to light during discovery for the case, settled in November.

The allegations against Toulouse are among dozens that have been filed against the Oregon Province. As of October, it had spent about $8.5 million to settle some 40 claims. As of November, it had about 30 to 50 pending claims. The province did not immediately have updated numbers Wednesday.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272


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