Bankrupt Jesuit Order Pays $166 Million in Sex Abuse Settlement

From The Mail:

A bankrupt order of priests has agreed to pay $166.1 million to hundreds of Native American and Alaska Natives who were abused at their schools.

The payout by the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province - part of an agreement to resolve its two-year-old bankruptcy case - is the third biggest settlement to date in the Catholic Church's ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

According to lawyers for the victims, it also is the largest ever by a single Catholic religious order.

Victim Clarita Vargas, 51, said: 'It's a day of reckoning and justice.' Both she and her two sisters were abused by the head of St. Mary's Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Washington, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The abuse began when they were as young as 6 or 7, she said. 'My spirit was wounded, and this makes it feel better.'

The Jesuit order ran village and reservation schools in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

The claims are from victims who were students at schools in all five states. Nearly all the victims are American Indian or Alaska Native.

The Very Rev. Patrick Lee, speaking for the Oregon Province, said the organisation would not comment on the settlement announcement because the bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing, 'as well as out of respect for the judicial process and all involved.'

He said the order was hoping to conclude the bankruptcy process as quickly as possible.

The settlement is believed to be the Catholic Church's third-largest in the wide-ranging sex abuse scandal.

Los Angeles Diocese, agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims and the San Diego Diocese agreed a $198 million settlement to 144 victims.

The province previously settled another 200 claims.

In 2009 the organisation filed for bankruptcy, claiming the payments depleted its treasury.

But victims argued the province remained wealthy because it controls and owns Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties.

The litigators later dropped pursuing the schools during the bankruptcy negotiations, so the settlement does not includes such institutions as Gonzaga University in Spokane.

Television report from 2007: http://youtu.be/hEWx-uQ6Lfo