Portland Woman, Former Altar Boy Accuses Priest of Sexual Abuse

By Amalie Young
Associated Press State & Local Wire [Portland Ore]
May 6, 2002

A woman who claims she was abused by a priest nearly 30 years ago filed a $1 million lawsuit Monday against the Archdiocese of Portland.

The woman, named only as N.M., said recent news reports of abuse by Rev. Louis Charvet prompted her to join a suit filed by 58-year-old David Schmidt, who accused Charvet of masturbating in front of him when he was 13.

N.M. claims that Charvet befriended her as a 7-year-old and molested her several times over a period of months, according to the lawsuit.

The Portland woman said she joined the suit "for David, for others like him, and ultimately for myself. I had to make a difference.

"I can remember every detail of the sexual abuse that had happened, but I successfully convinced myself that 'I was OK,' " the woman said in a statement. "The day David Schmidt's allegations ... were reported in the news, it was as if my world came crashing down."

Charvet, now 82, was recalled to the Mount Angel Abbey from Sacred Heart in Gervais after Schmidt's lawsuit was filed.

David Slader, the Portland attorney representing N.M. and Schmidt, said priests have been more likely to abuse boys because it is less suspicious for them to be alone together.

"Women have been marginalized," Slader said. "They're afraid that because they're girls that they may not be believed. But they were frequently abused."

The archdiocese did not immediately return calls for comment.

Also on Monday, a $3.8 million sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against the archdiocese by Tom Barnett, a former altar boy at Ascension parish in Portland, who claims that the Rev. Francis Ford sexually abused him for two years beginning in 1961.

Barnett was 12 when the abuse began in Portland, including abuse during a trip to the World's Fair in Seattle, according to the complaint.

"After nearly 40 years of hidden shame and guilt, I have been freed from my silence by the courage of the other men and women who have come forward to disclose their abuse by a priest," Barnett said.

The archdiocese was not aware of any complaint against Ford while he was at Ascension parish, said Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Portland Archdiocese.

But church officials had just learned of the lawsuit on Monday and noted that Ford was a member of the Franciscan Order, meaning that his Catholic church assignments would have come from Franciscan officials, not the archdiocese, Bunce said.

The lawsuit, also filed by Slader in Multnomah County Circuit Court, said Ford began his career as a priest in 1951 at St. Elizabeth parish in Oakland, Calif.

Ford spent time in the U.S. Air Force and then served briefly at St. Anthony parish in San Francisco before he was assigned to Ascension parish in Portland in 1961. He left Portland in 1964 to serve at St. Paul of the Shipwreck in San Francisco before returning to Oregon in 1967 to serve in Astoria, the complaint said.

Ford returned to California in 1969 to work at St. Apollinaris parish in Napa, and then apparently left the Franciscan Order but still served as a priest until his death in 1985 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The archdiocese is facing a number of recently filed lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests, most of them now dead, including a $5 million lawsuit filed earlier this month alleging two priests in Gervais sexually preyed on a young boy in the 1950s.


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