Priest Abuse Lawsuits in Courts Increase

By Ashbel S. Green
October 12, 2004

Summary: Actions not part of archdiocese bankruptcy proceedings involve Catholic clergy from independent religious orders and the state The Portland Archdiocese's decision to file for bankruptcy last summer has not stopped the flow of priest litigation in Oregon.

In the past month, 16 people claiming they were abused by priests have filed lawsuits seeking $40 million.

The federal bankruptcy proceeding has halted litigation against the archdiocese, which covers Western Oregon. So some plaintiff's attorneys have sought other targets, including independent religious orders to which some accused priests belonged and the state of Oregon, which employed two accused priests at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

Of the 16 new complaints, 10 are directed against Oregon, which employed the Rev. Remy Rudin and the Rev. Michael Sprauer at MacLaren in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively.

Rudin is dead. Sprauer, through his attorney, has denied any wrongdoing.

Both had been accused in lawsuits filed before July, when the Archdiocese of Portland filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid going to trial in a case seeking $135 million.

Sprauer faces accusations by 16 former MacLaren inmates. Rudin has been accused by eight, including the recent suits.

The lawsuits filed before the bankruptcy named the archdiocese as a defendant. The bankruptcy froze those cases.

The recent suits naming Sprauer and Rudin will be able to proceed because they do not name the archdiocese. In addition to naming the state, the Rudin cases name the Franciscans of Santa Barbara, the order to which he belonged.

That was a tactical move, said lawyers for the various plaintiffs.

"There can still be priest litigation as long he was an order priest or was working for an employer other than the archdiocese," said Erin K. Olson, a Portland lawyer who represents six plaintiffs who accuse Rudin -- and in one case Rudin and Sprauer -- of molesting them when they were at MacLaren.

Salem attorney Daniel Gatti, who represents all but one Sprauer accuser, also filed a suit against Mount Angel Abbey that accuses the Rev. Louis Charvet of sexual abuse. Charvet is a member of the Benedictines, which own and run the abbey.

Among the 16 claims filed in the last month, Gatti filed five that name the Rev. John Goodrich, the Rev. John MacNaughton and Friar Anthony James Warren.

Gatti said those suits do not have claims against the state or a religious order, so they will end up in the bankruptcy proceeding along with the other claims. When the archdiocese declared bankruptcy, it listed 64 abuse claims seeking more than $340 million.

The lawsuits naming Sprauer and Rudin do not name the archdiocese, but Olson and Gatti said they still intend to file claims in the bankruptcy proceeding in order to seek some compensation from the church down the road.

"They're still not off the hook," said Olson.


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