The Portland Archdiocese won a rare legal victory Wednesday when the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against two priests accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1950s.
The suit named the Rev. Clement Frank and the Rev. Louis Charvet, Mount Angel Abbey priests who are now dead.
The plaintiff claimed that after he fell down while roller-skating in Mount Angel in the early 1950s Frank happened to walk up, took him to a church and sexually assaulted him. The Court of Appeals ruled that the church cannot be held responsible because Frank did not use his position as a priest to gain access to the boy.
The plaintiff said that in 1958 Charvet sexually touched himself in his presence.
The court ruled that such conduct was not child abuse. So the extended statute of limitations under child abuse law did not apply and the plaintiff waited too long to file his suit.
"Mount Angel Abbey condemns child abuse," said John Kaempf, the Portland attorney who represented Mount Angel Abbey and Charvet. "However, the claimed incident with Father Charvet occurred over 50 years ago, and he did not touch the plaintiff. We are pleased that the court dismissed the case."
Erin Olson, who represents the plaintiff, said her client may appeal.
The two key elements of the case distinguish it from hundreds of other sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Portland Archdiocese and sundry religious orders since 2000. Almost all the cases involved accusations of physical abuse by clergy who used their priestly authority to gain access to children.
Almost every case settled.
Since 1950, the archdiocese and its insurers have spent more than $100 million.
It is unknown how much the Benedictines of Mount Angel and other religious orders have spent.