Alaskans Recall Alleged Abuse by Jesuits
Associated Press, carried in The Guardian
November 21, 2007
PORTLAND, Ore. - Holding photos of themselves as children, Elsie Boudreau
and James Niksik described what they said were years of sexual abuse by
Jesuit priests that led to the announcement of a $50 million settlement.
They said Tuesday that their abusers were venerated in the isolated western
Alaska villages where they grew up.
|[Elsie Boudreau with Alphonsus Abouchuk
(left) and James Niksik (right). This photo was not included with
the article. Click the photo for a larger image.]
"This is a crime that our parents and our grandparents couldn't
even conceive of," said Boudreau, who said her photo was taken for
her first communion in the village of St. Mary's.
The press conference was held two days after the announcement of the $50
million settlement with the Pacific Northwest branch of the Society of
Jesus, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The
Jesuit organization's settlement covers 110 Alaska Natives who say they
were abused by more than a dozen priests.
|[James Niksik holding a first communion
photo of himself and a friend. Elsie Boudreau and Alphonsus Abouchuk
are behind him. This photo was not included with the article. Click
the photo for a larger image.]
"This is how big I was," said Niksik, from the village of St.
Michael, pointing to a photo of himself and another child at what he said
was age 7 or 8. "We put our trust in the people who taught us religion."
When he told his father about the abuse, Niksik said, his father didn't
The settlement does not include the Fairbanks Roman Catholic Diocese,
which owned and managed churches in rural Alaska.
The settlement doesn't require the Jesuits to acknowledge wrongdoing,
but lawyers for the plaintiffs said the size of the settlement spoke for
John Manly, who has handled several abuse cases, said the plaintiffs believe
that church officials knowingly sent "the worst of the worst"
to isolated villages and that the Jesuits continue to care for abusers.
He said he believes abusers are still in the ministry.
The Very Rev. John Whitney, provincial superior of the society, has denied
that Alaska was a dumping grounds for pedophile priests.
Whitney said in an interview Tuesday that he has often acknowledged the
abuse in travels to Alaska. "There were Jesuits who abused native
people," he said. "I'm deeply apologetic to those who were abused."
He said three abusers in the case remain alive, in their 70s and 80s,
and are living under "safety plans" that limit their activities
and contacts. To expel them from the Jesuits would end those plans, and
"we take responsibility for them," he said.
He said priests alleged to be current abusers in the ministry should be
reported to the police and to the organization, which would remove offenders.