Another Priest Accused of Abuse

By Mary Beth Smetzer
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
October 21, 2005

Another Jesuit priest who served in the Fairbanks Catholic diocese 25 years ago has been named in a civil lawsuit, which claims he sexually abused a minor on the campus of St. Mary's Boarding School in Western Alaska.

The complaint alleges that the Rev. James Laudwein molested a 14-year-old Yupik Eskimo girl, listed as "Jana Doe," while she was visiting the boarding school campus in 1980.

According to the lawsuit, the teenager asked to go to confession, and Laudwein took her to a darkened room and told her "her sins would be forgiven" if she did what he asked.

At the time, Laudwein was administrator of the Catholic mission boarding school, which closed in 1987.

Today, Laudwein, 75, is semi-retired and working part-time with the poor doing social services in Portland, Ore., said the Rev. John Whitney, provincial of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province.

Ronnie Rosenberg, spokesperson for the Fairbanks diocese, said the latest filing was unanticipated.

"It is news to us," Rosenberg said. " ... We will pray for anyone who is injured and do whatever is in our power to do healing."

Rosenberg noted that the defendant, James Laudwein, is the twin brother of the Rev. Joseph Laudwein, also a Jesuit priest, currently ministering in Fairbanks.

"There are no allegations pending against Joseph," Rosenberg said.

Joseph Laudwein serves as a hospital chaplain in Fairbanks and is superior of the local Jesuit community. He also is the visiting priest to the Yukon River community of Tanana, Rosenberg said.

Whitney said he hadn't seen the latest lawsuit, which brings the number of complaints to 85 or more against a dozen Jesuit priests and religious volunteers, both living and dead, who served in the northern Alaska diocese over the last 50 years.

Thursday's 18-page complaint, filed in Bethel Superior Court, is the third to be filed in the last week against a Jesuit priest and includes the Oregon Province and Alaska Jesuits and the Fairbanks diocese as defendants.

James Laudwein served in Alaska from 1966 through 1981. His assignments included Fairbanks, Hooper Bay and St. Marys. According to the complaint, he was transferred from St. Mary's School in 1981 and never returned to Alaska as an assigned priest.

The lawsuit claims that the diocese and the Jesuits were negligent in their supervision of James Laudwein and knew that he was a child molester long before the plaintiff met him, and hid material, facts and information about his "deviant sexual behavior and propensities," while allowing him to remain in a position of authority.

The plaintiff claims that she wasn't aware that the defendants were legally responsible for harm done to her until 2003 when the first complaints of sexual abuse of minors were made against the institutional defendants. She is asking for $50,000 or more for injuries suffered.


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