Priest Sues Mt. Angel Abbey for More Than $1 Million for Sexual Mistreatment That He Says LED to a Lifetime of Pain

By Aimee Green
The Oregonian
December 29, 2010

A Roman Catholic priest has sued Mt. Angel Abbey, its signature bell tower is shown here in 2007. The priest says he was sexually mistreated as a teenager in the 1970s and seeks more than $1 million.

A Roman Catholic priest who says he was sexually mistreated as a teenager in the 1970s by a priest at Mt. Angel Abbey is suing the abbey for more than $1 million.

The priest, who was ordained in 1986, is identified in the lawsuit only as Father X.

It’s rare for priests to sue for alleged sexual mistreatment they suffered as children at the hands of church leaders. David Clohessy, executive director of the Missouri-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said several have filed claims. The first was in 1993 when Father Gary Hayes sued a New Jersey diocese claiming two priests sexually abused him when he was a boy.

Father X claims that the late Father Emmanuel Clark hugged him with his pants unzipped; pressed his head to his chest and told him that his heart beat with love for him; referred to him by a pet name; and encouraged him to go to adult book stores.

Newport attorney Bill Barton, who is representing Father X along with Portland attorney Erin Olson, said his client thought carefully about whether he would seek compensation for a lifetime of damages caused by the alleged abuse.

“He’s a man of great conscience and integrity, and this is not an easy thing for him to do,” Barton said. The suit was filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

According to the suit, the sexually inappropriate behavior caused Father X physical and emotional pain, an eating disorder, shame, anxiety, sexual orientation confusion, loss of professional identity and loss of his religious faith.

Stephen English, a Portland attorney representing the abbey, noted that none of the alleged conduct involved sexual touching. English said he will fully investigate whether the alleged hugging and other conduct by the now-deceased priest led to the damages Father X claims.

“Mt. Angel Abbey absolutely condemns any form of child abuse or inappropriate conduct,” English said.

Father X claims he was mistreated by Clark while attending the high school, Mt. Angel Preparatory, between the ages of 14 and 17. The high school no longer exists, but the abbey still operates a seminary in the tiny community of St. Benedict about 40 miles south of Portland.

Father X is approximately 50 years old today, although the lawsuit doesn’t list his exact age or city where he lives or works.

Oregon law allows childhood victims of sexual abuse to sue up until age 40, or within five years of recognizing that the abuse has damaged them.


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