Jesuits Settle Indian Sex Abuse Suit

Associated Press/December 3, 2008

Spokane, Washington : An order of Roman Catholic priests announced a $5 million settlement Thursday with 16 people who said they were sexually abused while attending a boarding school on an American Indian reservation.

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Order of priests, will pay $4.8 million in cash to the abuse victims and raise another $200,000 for the homeless in the area, the Jesuits and lawyers for the accusers said.

The Jesuits operated St. Mary's Mission and School near Omak for more than 60 years until turning it over to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in 1973. The tribes now operate the school as the Paschal Sherman Indian School.

The 15 women and one man claimed they were sexually abused by a school superior and a Jesuit worker in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The accusers were elementary school pupils at the time and are now in their 40s and 50s.

"I am profoundly sorry for the pain and suffering of these people, and for the violation of trust which they have felt," the Very Rev. John D. Whitney, head of the Oregon Province, said in a news release.

"It was at the invitation of the native communities that Jesuits first came to the Northwest, and we hold that as a sacred calling," Whitney said. "We are deeply apologetic for the ways in which we have not fully realized the grace of this invitation."

The Oregon Province covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. It also agreed in November to pay $50 million to more than 100 Alaska Natives who allege sexual abuse.

The accused abusers are still alive and living under supervision in Jesuit residences.

John Allison, a lawyer for the accusers, said the settlement was reached after several days of mediation and included talks involving Whitney and several claimants.

"We are very pleased that this settlement was reached without the long and grueling battle in the courts we've seen in too many other cases," Allison in a news release issued jointly with Whitney.

Some of the claims became public during bankruptcy proceedings involving the Spokane Catholic Diocese in 2006, Allison said. The settlement announced Thursday is separate from the $48 million settlement reached last year with about 150 people who were abused by clergy in the Spokane diocese.

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