Archdiocese of Portland Hit with $4 Million Abuse Suit

By Michael Wilson
The Oregonian
August 8, 2000

Two men sued the Archdiocese of Portland on Monday in a new sex-abuse case involving a Catholic priest. The priest died four years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court under the bright lights of news cameras, may be the first of its kind in Oregon, though similar suits have been filed elsewhere. The plaintiffs' lawyers said the Rev. Aldo Carlo Orso-Manzonetta abused the men, now in their early 40s, when they were teen-agers at St. Michael the Archangel Church in downtown Portland. The two are identified in the lawsuit only by the initials R.H. and D.J.

The case comes as the archdiocese continues in lengthy mediation in the much larger case against the Rev. Maurice Grammond. Twenty-five of Grammond's former altar boys, all grown men now, accused him of sex abuse over three decades in the Portland area. Grammond, 80, lives in a home for Alzheimer's patients in Gresham.

The archdiocese had been warned about Orso-Manzonetta in 1968 by a third person who was also a victim, the lawsuit claims.

"Although the person who reported the abuse was promised a full investigation would be made, it appears the information was simply buried and nothing was done to determine if Father Aldo was abusing altar boys or to protect their parishioners from his potential abuse," said Michael S. Morey, an attorney working with Kelly Clark, another attorney, in representing the plaintiffs.

The archdiocese did not comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Orso-Manzonetta was born July 26, 1923, in Portland. He attended the University of Portland and finished his studies at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. He was ordained in 1950 in Portland.

He served from 1959 to 1983 at the St. Michael Parish, as well as Our Lady of the Mountain Parish in Ashland, Mercy Home in North Bend and St. Peter Parish in Newberg, and he retired in 1994 at Sacred Heart Parish in Tillamook.

He died March 22, 1996, of arteriosclerosis at age 72.

The lawsuit claims the priest abused D.J. in 1968 and R.H. from 1973 to 1974, all in his private living quarters at St. Michael. The lawsuit charges sex abuse, negligence and fraud, and seeks $2 million for each plaintiff, plus lost earnings and unspecified punitive damages.

A sex abuse case involving an alleged abuser who is deceased offers special challenges to both sides, said Jeff Anderson of Minnesota, an attorney who has handled many such cases. Often, the proof of wrongdoing comes from the admission of the accused himself -- impossible in cases such as this one. The archdiocese, meanwhile, cannot call on the priest to defend himself.

"It cuts both ways," Anderson said.

You can reach Michael Wilson at 503-294-7663 or by e-mail at


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