Claims of Abuse by Priests Double
Fairbanks: Allegations Now Total 292 against the Diocese

Associated Press, carried in Anchorage Daily News
January 9, 2009

FAIRBANKS — Since The Fairbanks Catholic Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, the number of people alleging sexual abuse by diocesan priests and church workers has more than doubled.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy last March. Since then another 152 people have come forward and filed allegations with the court. That brings the latest tally to 292 people claiming they were sexually abused by Catholic clergy from the 1950s to 1980s, officials said.

The court imposed a deadline of last Dec. 2 to file further abuse claims.

An attorney for many of the people alleging sexual abuse said some of the new allegations involve offenders who hadn't been named before.

Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa also said that although the Fairbanks diocese is now legally protected from further claims, victims can and are still levying legal claims against the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — which provides priests for the Northern Alaska mission diocese.

Ronnie Rosenberg, the diocese's legal coordinator, said the Fairbanks diocese is still working on liquidating assets, selling things and getting appraisals to meet bankruptcy requirements. In Chapter 11 cases, an organization keeps running while coming up with a plan for repaying those to whom it owes money.

"These are complex cases with a lot of people trying to garner assets and figure out a plan," Rosenberg said.

"We're trying to figure out how this can happen so the diocese can continue to operate and the plaintiffs can get compensated. It's in everyone's interest to have that happen," he said.

Previous to filing for bankruptcy protection last winter, the Fairbanks diocese had settled with 23 victims.

The allegations against the diocese claim sexual misconduct by priests or church volunteers that stretches back decades, from the early 1980s to the 1950s.

"We acknowledge that harm was done to people and this is, we think, the most pastoral way to address those hurts," a diocese official said in February about the bankruptcy filing.

In late 2007, the Jesuits and 113 victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy reached a $50 million agreement to settle claims.

The Anchorage diocese, among many others nationally, has had its own sexual-abuse scandals.

This decade the Anchorage diocese has paid out more than $1.5 million, including payment from insurance policies, to address sexual abuse claims. The diocese has sold commercial property and the home of its archbishop to raise money for the settlements.

Allegations have included a former Anchorage priest and a former Kenai priest. The abuse in some cases occurred decades ago.


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