Deadline Looms in Jesuit Sex Abuse Lawsuit

By Travis Coleman
Great Falls Tribune
October 9, 2009

Native Americans sexually abused by Jesuit priests have less than two months to seek damages from the bankrupt church.

The Society of Jesus, Oregon Province filed for bankruptcy protection in February in the wake of more than 200 lawsuits alleging that priests sexually abused children in northwestern states.

One condition was that victims have until Nov. 30 to file an abuse lawsuit against the Jesuits. After that, no claims can be brought against them. The Jesuits have since 2001 paid out more than $25 million to sex abuse victims.

Attorneys have in recent weeks canvassed the state looking for Native Americans to come forward with claims, and one group stopped in Great Falls and the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation on Thursday.

Attorneys Kenneth Roosa of Alaska and Rebecca Rhoades of California accompanied Elsie Boudreau, a clergy sex abuse victim who is now reaching out to other victims. Boudreau said the church routinely dumped their "problem priests" in remote Native American communities, where they continued to molest and rape children. Boudreau added that there are nearly 300 victims of clergy sex abuse in her native Alaska.

Boudreau was abused by Father James Poole starting when she was 10. The molestation continued until she was a student at Carroll College in Helena. She wrote him a letter when she was 19 demanding that the abuse stop and it did. Poole later admitted the abuse and Boudreau settled with the Jesuits.

"It has allowed me to find my voice and for the first time be OK in my body," Boudreau said.

The attorneys believe there are clergy sex abuse victims in Montana because priests who molested elsewhere were relocated to Indian mission schools in Montana.

"It's highly unlikely they stopped molesting down here," Roosa said, adding that they have gotten no claims yet.

Attorneys are focusing on claims against multiple now-deceased priests, including Father Augustine Ferretti and Father Bernard McMeel, who were believed to have spent time on either the Flathead, Rocky Boy's or Fort Belknap Indian Reservations. They had histories of molesting children, Roosa said.


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