Archdiocese of Portland to Pay Nearly $4 Million to Settle Sex Abuse Claims by 8 Men against Oregon Priest

By Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian
August 1, 2019

The suit marked the first time anyone publicly named Pastor Pius Brazauskas as an alleged child abuser, said the plaintiffs' lawyer Peter B. Janci of Portland. After three men filed a lawsuit last year, five other men came forward to allege similar abuse. (Courtesy of plaintiff's lawyer. Photo taken by one of the plaintiffs)

The Archdiocese of Portland will pay nearly $4 million to settle claims by eight men who say they were sexually abused when they were boys in the 1970s and 1980s by a priest on the Oregon coast.

The Rev. Pius Brazauskas, who died in 1990, abused three of the men when they were between ages 5 and 12, according to a lawsuit they filed in January 2018. Brazauskas French kissed them, groped their genitals and pressed himself against them, they said.

The suit marked the first time anyone publicly named Brazauskas as an alleged child abuser, said their lawyer Peter B. Janci of Portland. After the suit was filed, five other men came forward to allege similar abuse.

Brazauskas was assigned to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in North Bend at the time.

The initial plaintiffs in the case, identified only by initials as J.B., S.R. and S.F., will receive $675,000 each under the settlement. They are now in their 40s.

Of the five others, S.S. will receive $675,000, J.N. $475,000; B.S., $440,000, A.S. $125,000 and D.G. $100,000, according to court documents.

Most of the eight had served as altar boys, Janci said.

Brazauskas immigrated from Europe to the United States in the 1940s, according to news articles. His time spent in Oregon included a position as chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene from the 1950s to the early 1970s. In the early 1970s, he moved to North Bend in Coos County, where he began his work at Holy Redeemer and at St. Catherine’s Residence Nursing home.

His obituary in The Oregonian says he retired in 1980 but remained involved at Holy Redeemer and the nursing home until his death in 1990 at age 84.

A Eugene Register-Guard article featuring Brazauskas in 1957 said children were a “special delight” to him and that he was known to them as “Dr. Bubblegum” because he always had gum or candy to hand out to them.

Janci said Brazauskas kept active in his parish after he retired, continuing to lead Mass there and at his home every week.

Oregon law allowed the men to file civil action last year because they had recognized the trauma that the alleged child abuse had caused in their lives within the prior five years.

The settlement was reached after mediation and months of negotiations.

Portland’s archdiocese was driven to bankruptcy in 2004 after settling more than 100 claims of abuse at the hands of clergy and facing dozens more. It was the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy over child sex abuse claims. By the time the bankruptcy proceeding was over in 2007, the archdiocese had settled over 300 claims and paid out nearly $90 million in claims and attorney fees to close the bankruptcy.

“This is to my knowledge the largest group of victims who’ve come forward in the post-bankruptcy era,’’ Janci said. “The fact that no public allegations were made until 25 years after he passed shows how difficult it was for these men to overcome the stigma and the fear of coming forward.’’

The men’s lawyers said they believe there are many other victims of Brazauskas that haven’t come forward.

Anna Helton, the lawyer representing the archdiocese who handled the cases, urged a federal judge to accept the settlement, noting the money would come out of the archdiocese’s future claims trust, a fund set up in the course of its bankruptcy proceeding, according to court papers. Helton could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Janci credited the archdiocese and its legal counsel, saying they treated the men with respect and worked to resolve the cases fairly and without delay.

-- Maxine Bernstein

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