Jesuit Group Agrees to Pay Huge Settlement to Native American and Alaskan Native Victims of Abuse

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

The Society of Jesus, Oregon Province—a group of Jesuits who serve the Northwest—has agreed to pay a settlement of $166 million to childhood victims of sexual and physical abuse. The abuse of approximately 500 Native Americans and Alaskan Natives is reported to have taken place at mission and boarding schools operated by the Jesuits on Indian Reservations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana.

The financial payout by the Society of Jesus is part of an agreement to resolve its two-year-old bankruptcy case. It is said to be the third biggest settlement to date in the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal—and, according to lawyers for the victims, it is the largest ever by a single Catholic religious order.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the settlement on Friday morning. Blaine Tamaki, an attorney from Yakima whose firm represented about one-third of the non-Alaskan victims, said, “Instead of teaching these Native American children about the love of God, these pedophile priests were molesting these children.” He added, “It was a culture of abuse of Native American children. Today is the day where they are acknowledging guilt.”

The abuse of the children is said to have spanned decades—and was perpetrated by priests and workers who were supervised by the Jesuits. The Jesuit order has been accused of regarding remote villages and reservations as “dumping grounds” for their problem priests.

According to an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, none of the priests, nuns, and lay workers who abused the children has gone to prison. In fact, many who held power in the province when the abuse occurred have retained their positions of authority.

Clarita Vargas, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, remembers being abused by the Rev. John Morse at St. Mary’s Mission and School—which she attended from the second through the eighth grade. She said Morse would sometimes lock her in a cellar and tell her she could not come out until she agreed to do what he wanted.

Vargas called the attacks on her and other native children a “generational trauma.” She told reporters that she, her siblings, and her classmates were subjected to constant sexual abuse at the school in Omak. “I was a beautiful Christian Catholic child,” she said. “Why would a person of authority try to tarnish that?”

Vargas feels that nothing can compensate her for her lost childhood. “My spirit was wounded. I can only say (the settlement) makes me feel better. And I can’t explain it,” she said.

In addition to the financial settlement, the Jesuit order reportedly has agreed to no longer refer to their victims as “alleged victims,” to write apologies to them, and to enforce new practices that would prevent abuse of children in the future.

Seattle Times
Seattle Post Intelligencer
Daily Mail

47 thoughts on “Jesuit Group Agrees to Pay Huge Settlement to Native American and Alaskan Native Victims of Abuse

  1. Why any one would remain Catholic after this is beyond me. The church should be barred from having any parishes in Indian Country in these states. My point of view comes from being a Pacific Northwest Indian. My tribe had our savage souls saved by the Presbyterians.

  2. Elaine,

    I read this story this morning and I’m glad you decided to post about it. My great great grandmother was full blood Blackfoot. While there is truly no such thing as a full measure of justice to be had in the instances of child abuse, given the rest of the horrors and injustices done to the Native Americans by not just the RCC but by damn near every European group to arrive on these shores, it was good to see that at least some small measure of justice has been had for these 500 children within their lifetime.

  3. Bonnie & Buddha,

    Did you hear John Stossel talking about Native Americans on FOX recently?

    John Stossel: No Group Has Had More Government Help Than American Indians



    My husband had a great grandmother who was a Penobscot Indian.

  4. Stossel . . . what a privileged cracker know-nothing asshat.

    I really wish someone would give him some small pox infected blankets just to see how helpful he thinks it is.

    Every time someone refers to that propaganda clown as a journalist, Murrow spins in his grave.

  5. The RCC is a global pedophilia cult, subsidized by government tax policies and the given protection of a sovereign nation.

  6. On a related theme, how about the mistreatment of kids by the for profit correctional industry. I use the word “correctional” because it is in their business name, but you can infer a sarcastic tone in my remark.

    I have been aware of the juvenile “justice” nightmare in Mississippi for more than three decades, but it is getting worse at warp speed thanks to Haley the Hutt and his owners, some of whom include the Koch crime family. Would you believe that part of the reason the rabid right wants to defund public radio/television is because they do, you know, real reporting?

  7. Otteray,

    I heard about that story on NPR the other day. It was actually on my list of potential stories to post about this weekend. Then I read the story about the Jesuits abusing Native American and Alaskan Native children this afternoon and decided I HAD to write about it for the Turley blog today.

    Privatizing prison services has made some people a lot of money. Who cares what happens to the kids???!!!

  8. Elaine: Please do write a follow up story. Bob Sloan summarizes it very well in his DKos diary, but the more eyeballs on it, the better.

  9. Bonnie 1, March 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Why any one would remain Catholic after this is beyond me.
    Firstly…I am not Catholic, but if you think that pedophilia is part of what Catholicism is meant to be you are wrong. In fact I could make the same statement about men…using the same logic….the truth is that there are very good and decent Catholics out there who do not subscribe to or support the pedophilia OR the silence and failure to protect children (and others!)…

  10. Woosty,
    You are right that there are good Catholics that don’t agree with Rome’s handling of these crimes, but they do nothing and keep giving money to these felons who keep hiding the peeps!

  11. Some day, understanding of child abuse may evolve enough to begin to stop it.

    Punishing people who were themselves abused as children for later becoming child abusers does not reduce child abuse.

  12. “Punishing people who were themselves abused as children for later becoming child abusers does not reduce child abuse.”

    Precisely put. We will not make any progress in this regard until we stop the hysteria surrounding the whole topic of sexuality and that’s not at all likely until we manage to exorcise the paternalistic dogmatic and exclusionary authoritarian religions that persist in inflicting magical thinking memes on the culture.

    We’d much rather remain comfortable expressing outrage at instances of pedophilia than actually try to understand its roots and develop methods of channeling the perverted energies of those adult victims into self-healing, socially productive modes.

    “Those monsters can’t be changed!” is the constant mythic cry because public piety and disgust enable the clamor for spectacular punishment above all else. Witch burning at its finest, guaranteed route to perpetuate the cycle.

  13. culheath,

    The church helped facilitate the abuse of children by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish. That was unconscionable. Those priests who were known to have sexually abused children should never have been allowed near children ever again.


    I have to ask the question: Can pedophiles be cured?

  14. Elaine asks: “Can pedophiles be cured?”


    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: It is a compulsion. Combines sex drive with fascination with children. Years ago, we had an inmate who had been a guest at our facility for 23 years. He was in his late fifties. On testing with the PPG, he had an 85% erection when shown stimulus pictures such a photo of a four year old little girl in a Sunday School dress. He was not shown any pictures that could be considered provocative by any stretch of the imagination by normal subjects. Yet, he reacted with raw lust to pictures that included children engaging in normal child activities.

    When checking on inmates, it is common to catch pedophiles masturbating while watching TV programs such as Sesame Street.

    For the church leadership to move known pedophiles around to protect them is unconscionable.

  15. Let me add a qualifier that pedophiles are not curable by any method or technique knows to modern science. That does not mean that a cure is not possible; it is just that no cure has been discovered and I am pessimistic that a cure can be found in the foreseeable future.

    This does not mean we should stop looking. In the meantime, we have to isolate predators from children not coddle them and protect them. The RCC has it backward. It is not the pedophile priests who need protecting, it is the parishioners who need to be protected from the priests.

  16. Let me add a qualifier that pedophiles are not curable by any method or technique knows to modern science.

    A single gun shot to the head would cure it.

    Alluding to another thread that would be hammer meets the primer.

  17. Bdaman, advocating criminality is not acceptable. No matter how offended we are at criminal behavior on the part of pedophiles, it is not justification for advocating murder.

  18. Even if you make the argument for killing them after due process by making pedophilia a capital offense, given the current economics of the death penalty process, it still makes more sense to make pedophilia a life without the possibility of parole offense instead. Besides, which is the greater punishment? Death or a lifetime of being at the very bottom of the prison food chain?

    I’m thinking the bottom of the food chain is much worse punishment as well is being karma appropriate for those who would prey upon children. Those who would victimize the most vulnerable of society in turn facing a lifetime of victimization by the worst of society may be the Lord Tennyson of poetic justice.

  19. So are pedophiles drawn to priesthood in the Catholic Church?

    Or does the RCC actually produce and encourage pedophilia?

  20. I’m all for isolating pedophiles from children, but the punishment angle (life in prison) is part of the problem. It’s basically just washing our hands of the situation and makes looking for a realistic solution all that more unlikely.

    I was sexually abused as a kid and it certainly didn’t ruin my life, I moved on. There was a study a few back which surveyed college student about whether they had been abused as kids and whether they thought it had done them permanent harm. A majority who said they had been abused also said they didn’t think it hadn’t caused them any permanent damage…that, like me, they had moved on. I’ll see if I can find the study online.

    I see the hysteria and damage magnification surrounding the entire broad topic of adult/child sex abuse as damaging (even to the child) as the acts themselves. Until we can approach the subject without the hysteria, there won’t be much progress.

  21. Otteray Scribe: “Longer answer: It is a compulsion.”

    Do you believe then that compulsions in general are incurable or that they can not be re-channeled or re-focused?

  22. Elaine M.:


    The church helped facilitate the abuse of children by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish. That was unconscionable.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  23. culheath,

    Segregation from the populace – absent a cure – is really the only option given the recidivism rate for pedophiles. I don’t think that’s hysterical. I think that’s practical.

  24. culheath: Some compulsions can be re-focused and there is one medication (Fluvoxamine) that works fairly well with obsessive-compulsive behavior. However, and this is a very large “however” indeed, it does not work with compulsive pedophiles.

    Punishment simply does not work with pedophiles; not even the treat of the death penalty. Just for starters, look at the behaviors exhibited on the “Dateline” TV series. Some of the pedophiles caught on camera knew they were going to get caught, had figured out it might be a sting and came looking for sex with a child anyway. They are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. There is no stopping them.

    Some sex offenders can be treated successfully, but pedophiles are in a class all their own. Of all the paraphilias, this is the single one that is virtually impossible to treat. Isolation from potential victims is the only known preventative.

  25. OS,

    “On a related theme, how about the mistreatment of kids by the for profit correctional industry.”

    The very same thing happened in Pennsylvania in 2009:

    “As scandals from Wall Street to Washington roil the public trust, the justice system in Luzerne County, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s struggling coal country, has also fallen prey to corruption. The county has been rocked by a kickback scandal involving two elected judges who essentially jailed kids for cash. Many of the children had appeared before judges without a lawyer.

    The nonprofit Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said Phillip is one of at least 5,000 children over the past five years who appeared before former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella.

    Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said.

    The judges have been disbarred and have resigned from their elected positions. They agreed to serve 87 months in prison under their plea deals. Ciavarella and Conahan did not return calls, and their attorneys told CNN that they have no comment.

    Ciavarella, 58, along with Conahan, 56, corruptly and fraudulently “created the potential for an increased number of juvenile offenders to be sent to juvenile detention facilities,” federal court documents alleged. Children would be placed in private detention centers, under contract with the court, to increase the head count. In exchange, the two judges would receive kickbacks.”

    And, it’s not just restricted to juvenile detention centers in AZ:

    “The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it’s upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

    Read Part 2 Of This Report

    Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny
    Among hundreds of bills drafted by an alliance of business, lawmakers: Arizona’s immigration law.
    When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

    Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

    But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

    NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

    The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.”


    Now back to the story … I’m not all that familiar with it, but would RICO apply to the RCC?

  26. According to the FBI website:

    “Acts under “color of any law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under “color of any law,” the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.”

    The FBI got a 188 month sentence for sheriff who forced an arrested woman to expose her breasts under a Color of Law threat. (Dexter L Morris, Jr.)

  27. Buddha Is Laughing
    1, March 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Segregation from the populace – absent a cure – is really the only option given the recidivism rate for pedophiles. I don’t think that’s hysterical. I think that’s practical.



  28. Good dog, OS – what a racket. Makes the Mafia look like honest an business organization.

    The only thing these governments and their allies in business are doing is ensuring that these kids, who would have had a chance at becoming productive citizens in society, are relegating them to a life of crime and hardship.

    I can only hope that NPR digs its heels in further in exposing this travesty, and the SPLC prevails now and in the future.

  29. “You are right that there are good Catholics that don’t agree with Rome’s handling of these crimes, but they do nothing and keep giving money to these felons who keep hiding the peeps!”
    Kinda like the Bar protects and hides many lawyers and judges who screw up and ruin peoples lives? Or cops that ruin peoples lives? Or how about Doctors that ruin peoples lives?

    I find a disproportionate degree of anger toward the church by the state…kind of a pot calling the kettle black kinda thingy….which may be why the populace has lost confidence in BOTH the church, and especially of late, the state.

    Maybe the focus should be shifted away from blaming and towards effective change in the system….then we could actually muster resources to out the real problem in the social fabric….Corporate undermining of the government.

  30. Maybe I am missing something….No money or very little money leaves Rome once it gets there….I am not sure but maybe this is the same model that Dick DeVos used for AmWay…It all goes up the chain….Each Church etc parish is to pay a certain percentage to the diocesan fund and that fund pays to the next player in the game and ultimately some usually a large chunk go Rome….do this same thing worldwide and ala …A hell of a cash reserve…think in terms of 2000 plus years…..then get into banking, the market and insurance…yes insurance….and ala more money…… And who wants to cheat the small church and default on loans…. The local church, mission does more for the people that need it than Rome ever did….they may have thought about it but that was then this is now…..

    With Bank Inquiry, Vatican Confronts Modern Life

    Institute for Works of Religion

    The Story’s are both worth profiting from….

  31. God Damn those in the RCC who committed these acts or covered them up. I use that blasphemy because it is the strongest and
    most apt words I could use to describe my disgust at this. I have had a lot of experience working against child abuse and with law enforcement entities like the Brooklyn DA’s Sex Crime Unit. While those here know that my tilt in most things is extremely progressive, when it comes to child abuse my stance is far to the right of Attila the Hun’s.

    I was at one point of the position of organizing and running Sex Abuse Units in NYC’s Five Boroughs. Though i was uniquely qualified for the position, being also a psychotherapist and expert on child abuse neglect, and it offered a substantial raise and increase in prestige, I turned the offer down flat. The reason was that the purpose of the Units were to be to provide case management and therapy to all parties to hopefully reunite the families. When it comes to child abuse, whether physical, psychological or sexual I am a “one strike you’re out” kind of guy. You do it and you don’t get the chance to do it again. This because as OS answered, with nuance, there is no cure for it known today.

    Culheath though makes an interesting observation with which I agree:

    “Precisely put. We will not make any progress in this regard until we stop the hysteria surrounding the whole topic of sexuality and that’s not at all likely until we manage to exorcise the paternalistic dogmatic and exclusionary authoritarian religions that persist in inflicting magical thinking memes on the culture.”

    I strongly agree with this statement. Discussion of all human sexuality in general are hysterical when viewed from the standpoint of religious dogma. My wife and I raise two daughters who are now accomplished women. Neither of us were particularly interested in their virginity or sexuality as the blossomed into their middle teens, with the exception that they were aware of
    the meaning of sexuality and knew how to protect themselves from pregnancy, STD’s and predatory/overbearing males.

    Our rearing included a great deal of teaching them to have respect for themselves and to demand that respect from others. I knew very little of their dating habits, or sexuality, with the exception that I would wait up at night until they got home. We gave them the information, explained the parameters and learned to respect their judgment. It seems we did well. It was astonishing to me how many fathers of daughters that I knew and knew of from outside sources were morosely interested in maintaining their daughter’s chastity and who viewed circumspectly their boyfriends as potential rivals.

    These chastity ceremonies we see in Fundamentalists, where father and daughter exchange rings that seek the daughter’s promise to remain chaste until marriage, strike me as covertly sexual and overwhelmingly sick. I believe there are statistics that show these rites are highly unsuccessful in their aims.

    The emphasis in many religions upon sexual wrongdoing has to me not a basis in faith, but really is a means of control and of avoiding the real message of each religion’s prophets. This is needed because just as Jesus taught the “golden rule,” as do Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, et. al, the logical extension of that rule is to decry governments that act in a totalitarian manner.
    In many lands, as in ours although constitutionally frowned on,
    the various religious institutions work hand in hand with the powers that be, who respond with cash and favors. By focusing on sexual sin, these so-called religious institutions can avoid taking stands on the really important issues espoused by their founding prophets. Everyone knows anyhow that the sexual prohibitions only are meant for the masses and not the Masters.

  32. Too much to correct in the above, so everyone my apologies. Being able to type quickly, does not correlate with being able to type correctly.

  33. By the way for those interested in excellent mystery novels centered around the theme of child sexual and physical abuse, I highly recommend the “Burke Series” written by Andrew Vachhs, who is quite knowledgeable in the field. The first book in the series is called “Flood.” he is a wonderful and satisfying writer who fully clarifies the evils inherent in this.

  34. That is ok by me Mike….I type so, so….use four finger 2 off of each hand and the thumb occasionally…I am fast thought…30 words a minute…thank god for spell check…

    Hey Mike…When are you going to be a weekend blogger….You are already out…You are smart, fairly intelligent…I think the Professor could do well to hear your view points expressed in a topic….You are prolific to boot…meant in a good way…

  35. Well good grief. To you leftist religious bigots out there: Just what do you think all those Hispanics Democrats are letting into the country are?


    Truly, the problem is not Catholicism. The problem is absolute power: it corrupts. It always does. The Boy Scouts have learned how to to handle this problem and it would be well for the Catholics to follow their example. Also, I understand from the linked article that the church is addressing this issue with its new priests.

    Of course the left is always hysterical and super pious about priests molesting kids but not so much that school teachers do it also and perhaps at a greater rate. I guess the Dems don’t want to shut down schools because of it either. That might interfere with the unions and the election of Democrat candidates.

  36. RE: Tootie, March 28, 2011 at 6:31 am


    I tend to agree about absolute power and corruption.

    Over-generalization may, alas, weaken otherwise valid views.

    From direct personal experience, I know that many of “all those Hispanics Democrats are letting into the country” are not Roman Catholic.

    And yet, like those of every group of humans of comparable size, some Roman Catholics do really good things, some do really bad things, and some do both.

    Methinks “it” is not about religious establishment affiliation…

    Prejudice greatly saddens me…

    …Especially when I find prejudice has grabbed onto me for a while.

  37. Why are so few of the animals in prison. A serial rapist should be locked away for life to ensure that the public is safe from them.

  38. Catholic Bishops Call For Housing Policy That Discriminates Against LGBT Americans
    (Think Progress, 3/29/2011)

    In response to a proposed regulation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development prohibiting discrimination in its programs based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has cried out that the regulation will interfere with their religious beliefs and threatened to end their support and sponsorship of tenants for HUD programs (PDF):

    Specifically, the regulations may force faith-based and other organizations, as a condition of participating in HUD programs and in contravention of their religious beliefs, to facilitate shared housing arrangements between persons who are not joined in the legal union of one man and one woman. By this, we do not mean that any person should be denied housing. Making decisions about shared housing, however, is another matter. Particularly here, faith-based and other organizations should retain the freedom they have always had to make housing placements in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs, including when it concerns a cohabiting couple, be it an unmarried heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple. Given the very large role that faith-based organizations play in HUD programs, the regulation, by infringing upon that freedom, may have the ultimate effect of driving away organizations with a long and successful track record in meeting housing needs, leaving beneficiaries without the housing that they sought or that the government intended them to receive.

    HUD’s decision reflects a growing awareness of the discrimination actually faced by people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. A recent study revealed that one in five transgender individuals has experienced homelessness. An estimated 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, and LGBT elders are at higher risk for homelessness due to the compounding financial inequities they experience over their lifetimes.

    This is only the latest of several threats from the Catholic Church to suspend charity support in the face of LGBT progress. In 2009, when the District of Columbia was preparing to pass marriage equality, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to discontinue all social services for the city if the same-sex marriage law was passed. After the law passed, DC Catholic Charities dropped all spousal benefits for newlyweds and new hires. In Maine, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland pulled its funding of a homeless shelter because of its support of same-sex marriage.

    But, while the Bishops feel that it is more important to discriminate against LGBT people than to actually provide them housing, a recent study revealed that 74% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage or civil unions. In conjunction with its new proposed policy (PDF), HUD is also conducting its own study of housing discrimination against LGBT people.

  39. Tootie & Woosty:

    I’m with you. The mating of Power and Opportunity far too often creates an ugly dynamic.

    And the offspring is a freak of nature called a “Sense of Entitlement.”

    Priest rape of children – and the totally immoral allowance of it by the Vatican – isn’t the only reason I turned my back on Catholicism. But it’s one reason.

    And somebody far brighter than I once observed, “God may or may not have created Man. But Man certainly created religion.”

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