Woman Alleges She Was Abused by Three Priests at St. Joseph in '70s

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald Republic
March 27, 2013

YAKIMA, Wash. — A woman has started a lawsuit in Superior Court here against the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, alleging that she was sexually abused by three Jesuit priests during the 1970s.

Michelle Duerre, who lives in King County, asked that her name be made public in her suit against the diocese. Now 44, Duerre alleges that the Revs. Frank Duffy, John Morse and James Poole abused her when she was between the ages of 8 and12 and a student at St. Joseph/Marquette School.

She says in court documents that Morse and Duffy abused her at the school and in the church rectory and that Poole abused her at the St. Peter the Apostle retreat house in Cowiche.

Monsignor Robert Siler, diocese chief of staff, said that Duerre had not previously contacted the diocese about the alleged abuse. “We’re sorry for any abuse this woman may have suffered,” Siler said.

Attorney Bryan Smith, who is representing the plaintiff, argued in the lawsuit that although the three priests were part of the Jesuit order and not diocesan priests, the diocese failed to supervise them to protect children.

Now deceased, Duffy served at St. Joseph’s Church from 1971 to 1979 and in other parishes in the diocese until 1989. Morse worked at St. Joseph’s from 1963 to 1966, 1973 to 1979 and again in 1994.

Siler said this was the first time the diocese had heard a complaint about Poole. He said a quick review of records showed that Poole was never assigned here, but he may have been a visiting priest.

Duffy was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff identified as M.P. in Yakima County Superior Court in 2010. The plaintiff claimed she was molested in 1977 while a student at St. Joseph/Marquette School. The case was settled in 2012 for $205,000.

Morse has not been named previously in a lawsuit against the diocese, but he was part of a $166 million settlement in 2011 the Jesuit Oregon Province agreed to pay to more than 100 victims who said they were abused in schools in the Pacific Northwest decades ago by Jesuits. Morse has denied those allegations.

Newsweek magazine reported in 2008 that Poole had been accused of sexual abuse in Alaska. Both Morse and Poole live in a retirement facility in Spokane.

Noting that it was common for alleged victims to use pseudonyms in court, Smith said that Duerre is hoping by using her real name, she will help other victims.



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