Woman's Lawsuit Alleges Abuse

By Karen McCowan
The Register-Guard
October 17, 2011

A 39-year-old woman has filed a $14 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland in connection with her alleged sexual abuse as a teenager by her priest at St. John the Apostle Catholic Parish in Reedsport.

The federal lawsuit alleges that the woman suffered lasting psychological harm after the Rev. Edward Altstock abused his position as her spiritual mentor and youth group leader to begin grooming her at age 14 for a sexual relationship that began in 1986, when she was 15 and he was 57.

The Register-Guard generally does not publish the names of alleged sexual abuse victims.

Altstock, now retired and living in Beaverton, declined comment this week.

Archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce said the organization is investigating the suit's allegations. He said the archdiocese previously received at least one other complaint against Altstock. He declined to elaborate on that complaint.

Bunce said the church has restricted Altstock from even temporary involvement with any parish because of the nature of the lawsuit's accusation against him.

The alleged victim in the suit now lives in the Portland area, according to her attorney, Kelly Clark of Portland. Clark has handled dozens of priest sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese.

Any damages awarded in the Reedsport case would come from a "future claimants" fund established as part of a 2007 bankruptcy settlement, Clark said.

The archdiocese, the Roman Catholic Church's Western Oregon headquarters, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2004 as it faced more than 300 lawsuits over alleged clergy sexual abuse.

The new suit by the former Reedsport resident seeks $200,000 in economic damages to cover costs of her past and future counseling and psychiatric and psychological treatment.

It seeks $4 million in noneconomic damages for her "debilitating" physical and emotional injury and trauma. And it seeks $10 million in punitive damages.

The suit alleges that the archdiocese was negligent in failing to warn parishioners of potential abuse despite "numerous reports" of child molestation by its priests.

"By the 1980s, the Archdiocese knew that a significant percentage of priests were child molesters who used the priesthood to gain access to and the trust of children.

"The Archdiocese had a duty to disclose to parents and families these known threats to the health and safety of the minors involved with their organization," the suit alleged.

Instead, it promoted its religious and educational programs as being "safe as well as emotionally and spiritually beneficial for children," the suit charged.

Had there been warnings, it said, the parents of the alleged victim "would not have allowed her to be alone with an unrelated 56-year-old man for extended periods."

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.