Lawsuit Targets Spokane Diocese Oregon Woman Says She Was Abused at Age 12 at Spokane's Jesuit House

By Kevin Blocker
Spokesman Review
January 24, 2004

A local attorney filed a lawsuit Friday against the Spokane Catholic Diocese on behalf of an Oregon woman who alleges she was sexually abused 13 years ago at Jesuit House in Spokane.

Also listed as defendants are Spokane Bishop William Skylstad and the Province of the Society of Jesus of Oregon, which apparently supervised the late Father Peter O'Grady, although the exact relationship wasn't clear on Friday.

The woman alleges she was molested by O'Grady, a Jesuit priest, when she was 12.

Attorney Douglas Spruance said his client - identified in the lawsuit only as K.F. - was molested at Jesuit House in 1991. O'Grady died in 1993.

The woman, who is 25 and now lives in Oregon, attended Spokane's St. Thomas More parish at the time when O'Grady served there as a ''floating" priest, the lawsuit says. Floating priests fill in when a church is short-handed.

''O'Grady sought and gained the trust and confidence of the children in the parish, including the plaintiff, as their friend, spiritual guide, priest, confessor, teacher and confidante," the lawsuit says.

O'Grady directed the girl to remain silent about what happened, the lawsuit alleges.

Spruance said he hopes the lawsuit will be settled out of court.

''We hope there will be some closure for our client and the church," Spruance said at a press conference in front of the Catholic Chancery at 1023 W. Riverside Ave.

Members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests used the press conference to continue their attacks on Skylstad.

SNAP officials, when notifying reporters of the press conference on Thursday, said they would call for Skylstad's resignation; however, they stopped short of that Friday.

''Why should we trust this man that doesn't tell the truth?" said Michael Ross, a SNAP member who also has filed a lawsuit against the diocese.

Ross noted that the alleged abuse of K.F. took place during Skylstad's tenure, suggesting that the bishop has been less than forthcoming by claiming that no diocesan priest in Spokane has been accused of improper sexual behavior on his watch.

However, Father Steve Dublinski, the diocese's vicar general, said O'Grady was never employed by the Spokane Diocese.

Dublinski said O'Grady worked for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus and was only engaged in ''supply work" while he served in Spokane. Dublinski was not sure what O'Grady's specific duties entailed.

Dublinski said the lawsuit was not a surprise, as the diocese has been negotiating with the woman and her attorneys. Spruance said filing the lawsuit was a ''symbolic" gesture.

''The church has been very positive in its negotiations," Spruance said.

Spruance said his client has had a battle with low self-esteem and frequently blames herself for the molestation that she suffered.

''Like victims of rape, she needed help," Spruance said. ''Coming forward and filing the lawsuit is a positive start to her attempt to come to a resolution and move on with her life."

Spruance said his client has been in counseling for the past year and is seeking unspecified damages.


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