Hundreds File Abuse Claims Against Jesuits

By The Associated Press
December 7, 2009

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — More than 500 people have filed claims accusing Jesuits of sexually abusing children across the Northwest.

The claims vary in severity and span decades and geography.

People were required to file their accusations by Nov. 30, a deadline imposed by the federal judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. That organization includes Jesuits in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

The Jesuits already have settled 200 sex-abuse claims.

The Jesuits claim to have so far spent about $25 million. In bankruptcy documents the Jesuits claim to have $4.8 million in assets and liabilities of $61.8 million.

Yet many of the 500 people left to seek payouts in Bankruptcy Court assert that the organization remains wealthy and that it misstated its financial standing in court records.

They contend the Jesuits control and own Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties. The ownership of Gonzaga and the other schools could be the dominant issue in the bankruptcy.

Gonzaga University is fighting efforts to link its fortunes to the province. Separately incorporated and registered 125 years ago, the private college with 7,200 students will not volunteer money or other resources to settle the bankruptcy, said Mike Casey, Gonzaga's corporation counsel.

"We are not willing to either participate in this bankruptcy nor help resolve it," Mr. Casey said.