In one of the largest settlements of the ongoing sex abuse scandal of the Roman Catholic Church, the Jesuit order of the Northwest will pay about $166 million to more than 500 survivors, most of whom are Alaska Native or American Indian.
Under the proposed settlement The Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, also will apologize and provide pertinent records of the approximately 140 priests, brothers, nuns and lay employees accused over the span of 30 years from the 1950s to the 1980s.
In many cases, accused priests were reassigned by the order in Portland to Alaska Native villages and Indian reservations in Montana, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Oregon, according to abuse survivors and their attorneys.
“Problem priests were put on reservations,” said Dorothea Skalicky, 42, who said she was abused as a girl by a priest growing up on the Nez Perce Reservation.
Skalicky and Alberta Sena, 45, of Clarkston, both spoke at a news conference Friday in Spokane at which the settlement was announced. Skalicky sat on the negotiating panel that hammered out the settlement.
“I thought I was alone,” said Sena, who also said she was abused by a priest in Lapwai and came forward with her story after reading about the accusations against the Jesuits two years ago. “I thought of him as a father figure. I thought I would be safe, and I was not.”
The Northwest Jesuits, beset by mounting claims of abuse, sought bankruptcy protection in February 2009, after the organization already had settled about 200 claims for more than $55 million.
In 2008, the Jesuits agreed to pay $4.8 million to 16 people who said they were sexually abused as children by the Rev. John J. Morse and James Gates, a Jesuit brother, at the St. Maries Mission and School near Omak in the 1960s and 1970s.
Morse, who denied the allegations, was removed from ministry in 2006.
In 2007, the Northwest Jesuits agreed to pay $50 million to dozens of Alaska Natives who were sexually abused by priests.
Today, there are more than 500 claimants, and more than 100 of those are from Washington state. Many say they were abused at the St. Mary’s Mission on the Colville Reservation.
Many other men and women said they were abused on the Kootenai-Salish and Blackfoot reservations in Montana, the Coeur d’Alene and Nez Perce reservations in Idaho and the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.