September 28, 2006 in City

Allegations followed priest

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Gonzaga High School teacher went on to molest at least four more young boys after Jesuit leaders shipped the troubled priest to Seattle University in 1950, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday.

The Rev. Michael Toulouse, who died in 1976, cultivated friendships with Catholic families, and then groomed their sons for sexual abuse even as Jesuit leaders worried about his behavior, according to court filings.

As early as 1938, Jesuit leaders suggested that the priest should leave, stating he “does not seem to understand the meaning of obedience,” according to minutes from a provincial meeting marked “Confidential.”

Twelve years later, a distraught father took a .32-caliber handgun to Gonzaga University with plans to kill Toulouse, who lived on the campus. The priest’s subsequent transfer to Seattle University led to objections from that school’s administration.

Seattle University President Albert A. Lemieux said he understood Toulouse was being transferred “because he had to be got out of Spokane,” according to a Dec. 31, 1950, letter to Jesuit leaders – one of several internal documents filed in district court.

The documents raise significant questions about what Gonzaga and Seattle leaders knew regarding Toulouse before he was sent to Western Washington, where he reportedly abused a string of other young boys.

Attorney Mike Shaffer, who represents several Toulouse victims, said he knows of a dozen men who were sexually abused by the priest, who taught philosophy at Seattle University. He said the internal documents, together with victims’ memories, show that Jesuit leaders of the day knew Toulouse was a pedophile, but rather than report him to police, they opted to move him.

“They turned a monster loose in Seattle,” Shaffer said.

The news comes just two weeks after Jesuit leaders acknowledged that allegations of sex crimes by former Gonzaga University President John P. Leary were covered up in the late 1960s.

Current Gonzaga President Robert Spitzer has declined repeated requests for interviews this month.

But the court filings, brought on behalf of a man who alleges that Toulouse molested him in 1968, have uncovered long-hidden documents regarding the deliberations of church leaders.

Toulouse was transferred from Spokane in 1950, around the time that John McKinley III told his father that the priest had sodomized him.

“What Toulouse did has hurt me very much,” said McKinley, now 70 years old and living in Olympia. “It’s affected my life in bad ways. I only wish all those Jesuits would have to walk in my shoes to see what it’s like.”

The Jesuits paid him a settlement of about $200,000.

McKinley’s father, a railway worker, grabbed his pistol and headed to Gonzaga. According to a sworn affidavit from McKinley, Gonzaga President Francis Corkery met with the distressed father, and Jesuit leaders later informed the family that Toulouse had been transferred to Seattle.

The Rev. John Whitney, who leads the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, said it was not clear that Gonzaga leaders knew about the abuse by Toulouse before the transfer.

“If that’s true, it’s morally repugnant,” Whitney said earlier this week. Whitney, who oversees Jesuits in Seattle and Spokane, said he considers it his mission to acknowledge the failures of past Jesuit leaders in order to prevent it from happening again.

At the very least, the court filings indicate that Toulouse had worried other Jesuit leaders for decades.

On Dec. 16, 1960, Lemieux wrote to Father Alexander F. McDonald, who led the Jesuits, that “perhaps (Toulouse’s) usefulness to a university has run its course.”

A year later, Lemieux again expressed unspecified “problems” with Toulouse, suggesting he should be moved.

In 1963, Lemieux listed Toulouse as one of several priests who were “a source of worry in the classroom and elsewhere for various reasons.”

But Toulouse was allowed to stay.

In 1968, he allegedly assaulted a 12-year-old boy, who said the priest had repeatedly abused him.

This year, those allegations of abuse led to a lawsuit – J.C. v. Society of Jesus, Oregon Province – that has resulted in the discovery of several crucial documents. Attorneys said that other victims have since come forward.

“At least a dozen victims have been identified by now who suffered assaults from Toulouse’s aggressive, predatory pedophilia,” attorneys for the victim, identified only as “J.C.,” wrote in the court filings.

The victim’s mother and Toulouse were cousins. In court documents, Jesuit lawyers say the victim seeks $1.5 million.


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