|Oregon Firm Files Abuse Lawsuits against Churches
By William McCall
San Jose Mercury News
February 11, 2009
PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland man has filed a $4 million lawsuit against the Franciscan Friars of California, alleging childhood sexual abuse by a priest.
In an unrelated lawsuit seeking $3.25 million, a pastor for the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and its Roseburg Junior Academy was accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl in 1992.
The complaints were filed by Portland lawyer Kelly Clark, one of the lead attorneys in a number of sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland that ended in a $50 million settlement in 2007. Three years earlier, the archdiocese was the first in the nation to declare bankruptcy.
Calls to Franciscan officials were not immediately returned Wednesday. An Adventist spokeswoman referred calls to an attorney, who was not immediately available.
The lawsuit against the Franciscan Friars, a Catholic order, was filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
A 62-year-old man listed only by his initials alleges he was abused as a teenager by Father Claude Riffel at the St. Francis Minor Seminary in Troutdale, east of Portland, in the early 1960s.
According to the lawsuit, Riffel was dean of discipline for the school when he would call the teenager out of class on the pretext of assigning work and then abuse him.
In a statement released with the lawsuit, Clark noted the Franciscan Friars of California is an independent Catholic organization unaffiliated with any diocese.
The lawsuit against the Adventist pastor, who was identified only by his initials, alleges he took the 5-year-old girl to an isolated area of the Roseburg Junior Academy during a "week of prayer" and abused her.
Clark called the case "one of the worst I have seen."
The girl is now 21 and attends community college, he said.
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