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article imageCatholic religious order to pay $166 million to sex abuse victims

By Adeline Yuboco     Mar 26, 2011 in World
Seattle - A Roman Catholic order situated in the Pacific Northwest agreed to pay a total of $166 million as compensation to more than 500 individuals who were sexually and psychologically abused as children between the 1940s and today.
The payout, which is to be made by the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, is considered to be the largest settlement to be paid by any Catholic religious order as well as one of the largest abuse settlements to be made of any kind by the Roman Catholic Church. According to Reuters, the settlement is to resolve about 524 abuse claims in a five-state area, namely, Oregon, Washington Province, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.
In addition to the settlement, the religious order is also scheduled to release a written apology to the victims as well as the disclosure of all documents—including medical records—to them.
"It's a day of reckoning and justice," Clarita Vargas told King 5 News. Vargas, along with her two sisters, were abused by the head of the St. Mary's Mission and School—a boarding school established on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Washington, which was formerly run by the Northwestern Jesuits—between the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Blaine Tamaki of Tamaki Law pointed out that the settlement to be made by the Jesuits is a form of recognition on their part that they "betrayed the trust of hundreds of young children in their care, and inflicted atrocities upon them."
"Instead of teaching these Native American children about the love of God, these pedophile priests were molesting these children," he said. "These religious figures should have been responsible for protecting children, but instead raped and molested them. No amount of money can bring back a lost childhood, a destroyed culture or a shattered faith."
Under the proposed terms of the settlement agreement, 70% of the settlement will be paid through the use of insurance assets while the remaining 30% will be paid directly by the Oregon Province.
In a statement issued by lawyer Michael Pfau—who represented 150 clergy abuse victims—believes that this will shed further light on the institutional neglect within the Jesuit order.
"Our clients and their communities deserve answers and deserve closure, and this settlement is a big step forward toward accomplishing those goals," he said.
Meanwhile, members of the Society of Jesus have remained silent, and would not discuss the case. Provincial Superior Patrick Lee issued a terse statement that did not contain any apology despite the clause in the settlement requiring them to do so.
"Due to the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province current Chapter 11 Bankruptcy status, as well as out of respect for the judicial process and all involved," he said in a statement. "We will not comment on today's announcement. The province continues to work with the Creditors Committee to conclude the bankruptcy process as promptly as possible."
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