Man Citing Abuse Sues Portland Archdiocese

By Ashbel S. Green
December 4, 2003

Summary: An anonymous plaintiff seeks more than $4 million, saying the Rev. Henri Arata molested him as a child A 47-year-old man sued the Portland Catholic Archdiocese for more than $4 million Wednesday, claiming that a parish priest molested him in the late 1960s in Stayton.

The anonymous plaintiff, who filed suit in Multnomah County under the initials "D.C.," said the Rev. Henri J. Arata repeatedly and extensively sexually molested him when he was a student at St. Mary's Catholic Grade School.

D.C. said in an interview that he kept the abuse secret until May 2002, when he was attending another church.

"The minister who was there talked about her background having dealt with sex abuse victims. And it was just one of those revelations, and I went up to her after the service and said I have talk to you," D.C. said.

It is the first suit to name Arata, who also worked in churches in Portland, Sublimity, Sandy and McMinnville from 1962 to 1982, according to Michael Morey, the Lake Oswego attorney who is handling the case.

Arata died in 1982.

Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the Portland Archdiocese, said in a written statement that "dealing with a lawsuit involving events which allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago, and when the priest has been dead more than 20 years, presents a great challenge to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese will investigate this matter and proceed in an appropriate manner.

"Child abuse is contrary to all that the Catholic Church believes and professes about the dignity of human persons. The Archdiocese of Portland is committed to providing a safe environment for all persons served in ministry," Bunce wrote.

In the past four years, more than 170 people have sued the Catholic Church in Oregon saying they were abused by priests, and church and lay officials, according to an analysis by The Oregonian.

The lawsuits, which identify more than 50 priests, church and lay officials, seek a total of more than $600 million.

The bulk of the suits name the Portland Archdiocese, which is west of the Cascade Mountains, and various religious orders.

The Portland Archdiocese and various religious orders have settled with about 100 plaintiffs, but the financial terms remain secret.

More than 20 cases are pending against the Baker Diocese, which is east of the Cascades.

D.C., a former altar boy, said Arata, an outgoing, friendly priest, started slowly.

"The first thing I can remember is that he'd adjust my clothes," he said.

But he said the abuse escalated significantly.

"This was far more than groping," said Morey, his attorney.

D.C. said he became physically ill, developing an ulcer. He eventually drifted away from the Catholic Church. He said he never told anyone because he was raised to believe that priests were infallible.

"You don't question them," he said.

D.C., who is married and has three children, said he is still trying to come to grips with the abuse.

"At this point, I think I'm just starting to realize in taking a look at how it's affected my life," he said.


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