Priest Accused in Lawsuit of Sex Abuse in Alaska

Associated Press, carried in KGW
January 14, 2008

A lawsuit has been filed by Alaska Natives who say they were sexually abused by Jesuit priests in remote communities, and the president of Seattle University is accused of covering up the offenses.

The Seattle Times reported that the Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, president of the Jesuit school since July 1997, is among the defendants in the case because of his previous role as provincial, or head of the Oregon Province of the Jesuit order that covers Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

Other defendants include six Jesuits or those supervised by Jesuits, accused of abuses ranging from fondling to rape, and the Jesuit order.

Some of their plaintiffs and their lawyers scheduled a news conference Wednesday on the case.

The lawsuit contends that Sundborg had access to confidential files on misconduct by priests and should have known that at least one, the Rev. Henry Hargreaves, now believed to be living with the Jesuit community in Spokane, had abused children.

"Father Sundborg remains steadfast in the belief that all victims of clerical abuse be treated with compassion and justice," university spokesman Casey Corr told The Times. "He has not been served with the lawsuit."

The newspaper reported that Hargreaves, also named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Alaska Superior Court's Bethel Judicial District by 43 men and women who allege they were abused between the 1950s and 1990s in the remote Alaska hamlets of Nulato, Hooper Bay, Stebbins, Chevak, Mountain Village, Nunam Iqua and St. Michael.

They say Native villages in Alaska were used as a "dumping ground" for Jesuit priests unsuited to serve anywhere else, a claim repeatedly denied in the past by Jesuit officials, although the order has paid millions of dollars in recent years to settle sexual abuse claims in Alaska.

The Very Rev. Patrick Lee, head of the Oregon Province, told The Times it would not be appropriate to comment on the suit since he had not reviewed the allegations.

"The Oregon Province takes these allegations very seriously and will investigate them to the fullest extent," Lee said. "The province is committed to a just and healing course in all cases of misconduct and child abuse."


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