Suit involving claims of sex abuse against priest allowed to go forward

Anchorage Daily News/August 19, 2006

A lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks that involves claims of sexual abuse against a now dead priest can go forward, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Eight men sued the diocese and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus in 2003, asserting they were sexually abused years ago as children by a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Jules Convert, and that the church knew of his behavior and hid it by moving him from parish to parish.

Convert worked in Alaska from 1942 to 1978. He died in 1985. Most of the men were altar boys in St. Marys, Kaltag or Unalakleet, while one lived in a Holy Cross orphanage overseen by Convert.

The diocese and the Society of Jesus tried to get the case dismissed on the grounds the statute of limitations had expired. But while waiting for a ruling, the Jesuits settled with six plaintiffs. Both sides earlier had settled with two plaintiffs. Other men have since joined the suit as plaintiffs.

In Friday's court ruling, the Supreme Court found that the case can continue while the plaintiffs collect evidence. The statute of limitations issue can be determined after sufficient evidence is collected.

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