Sex Suit Accuses Ex-Principal of Central Catholic

By Ashbel S. Green
The Oregonian
June 28, 2002

Summary: The $6.1 million case says Monsignor Martin Thielen molested a boy in the late 1950s and early 1960s

A lawsuit filed Thursday accuses a former teacher and principal of Central Catholic High School of repeatedly sexually abusing a boy in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The suit, which names the Archdiocese of Portland and seeks $6.1 million, accuses Monsignor Martin Thielen of sexually molesting a boy identified by the initials "C.A.J." who was an altar boy at St. Stephen Catholic Church and a student at Central Catholic, both in Southeast Portland.

The suit contends that the boy told another priest, the Rev. Thomas Laughlin, about the abuse. Laughlin himself was later convicted of molesting boys.

"Father Laughlin smacked the boy in the head, told him to keep quiet about it and apparently did nothing," said Kelly Clark, a Portland attorney who represents more than a half-dozen people who have sued on claims that Oregon priests abused them.

Thielen is no longer an active priest, said Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the Portland Archdiocese.

"He's about 91. He's retired," Bunce said. "He is not in active ministry so there's nothing to pull him out of."

Bunce said archdiocesan officials had not seen the suit and had no comment on the accusations.

Thielen, who lives in a priest retirement home in Beaverton, did not want to comment, Bunce said.

Dozens of sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Roman Catholic Church in Oregon the past few years, mirroring a national trend. Of the nearly 30 Catholic clergy named in the Oregon litigation, most have died, returned to religious orders in other states or left the priesthood.

Thielen is one of a handful of priests accused of sexual abuse known to live in the state.

Laughlin, who was convicted of sexual abuse in 1983, was laicized and lives in New Mexico.

Since October 2000, the Portland Archdiocese has settled 32 priest suits, 25 involving the Rev. Maurice Grammond, who lives in a Gresham home for Alzheimer's patients.

As part of the Grammond settlement, Archbishop John G. Vlazny apologized to the victims of sex abuse and appointed a task force to review priest files and go over church policies for reporting and responding to abuse accusations.

Clark said his client, now in his 50s, dropped out of Central Catholic because he was desperate to end the abuse. He became a juvenile delinquent and spent time in juvenile detention.

Later he joined the U.S. Navy, but only began to enjoy a relatively stable life in his 30s, Clark said.

"My client hopes that by exposing this abuse, he will be able to shed the secrecy that has haunted him, and encourage other abuse victims to seek help for themselves," he said.


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