November 24, 2006 in City

Settlements reached in priest abuse suits

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

SEATTLE – The Jesuit order in the Northwest has settled a lawsuit against the Rev. Michael Toulouse, a priest who taught at Seattle University from about 1950 to 1976, the year he died.

The Seattle Archdiocese has also recently reached settlements in some of its priest abuse cases, including three against the Rev. James McGreal, whom the Vatican has permanently barred from ministry.

The plaintiff in the Jesuit case, who sued in 2005, claims the abuse occurred in 1968 at a Jesuit residence at Seattle University when he was 12. He settled for $350,000 on Monday.

The Very Rev. John Whitney, head of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesuits, said, “We admitted the allegation from the very beginning. I said I believed the survivor suffered what he had talked about. Litigation was about just compensation.”

The Seattle Archdiocese settled the three lawsuits against McGreal for $1.25 million last week. Previous suits against McGreal have ended with multimillion-dollar settlements, including a $7.9 million agreement reached in September 2003 with 15 alleged victims.

A major issue in the Jesuit case was whether province leaders had known before 1968 that Toulouse was a danger to children. At one point Whitney said the province did not know about the allegations against Toulouse until about the early 1990s.

But documents unearthed while the case was investigated indicated that some priests in the province, though not necessarily any living ones, had known since at least 1951 that Toulouse had sexual contact with a minor.

Whitney said he was glad a settlement had been reached – not just because the matter was scheduled to go to trial in December, but because the plaintiff “clearly suffered something. I hope this can be a step toward healing.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Michael Pfau said he plans to file several more lawsuits against the Oregon Province on behalf of several others claiming they were abused by Toulouse.

There are about 30 to 50 pending claims against priests who are or were with the Oregon Province, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Three additional cases against the Seattle Archdiocese and the Christian Brothers order were settled earlier this year. Those lawsuits claimed abuses at Briscoe Memorial School in Kent, once run by the Christian Brothers and closed in 1970.

Two cases were settled for $100,000 each. Another case was settled for $825,000, and included abuse allegations against one Christian Brother who worked at Briscoe and the Rev. Edmund Boyle, a priest of the Seattle Archdiocese who is dead. The Seattle Archdiocese and Christian Brothers both contributed to each of those three settlements.

There are four lawsuits still pending involving more than 30 plaintiffs who claim they were abused at Briscoe. Aside from the Briscoe cases, the Seattle Archdiocese currently faces 16 claims, according to church attorney Michael Patterson.


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