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Alaska Natives expand sex-abuse suit against Jesuits
Twenty more plaintiffs and a defendant were added to a lawsuit filed by dozens of Alaska Natives who say they were abused as children and teens by Jesuits or those supervised by Jesuits.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Twenty more plaintiffs and a defendant have been added to a lawsuit filed by dozens of Alaska Natives who say they were abused as children and teens by Jesuits or those supervised by Jesuits.
In the original suit, filed last month, 43 Alaska Natives said they had been abused in remote villages in the state. The suit named several defendants, including various Jesuit entities and the head of the worldwide Roman Catholic order.
The suit also named Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, saying that as a former provincial — or head — of the Jesuits in the Northwest, he knew or should have known about an abusive priest. Sundborg denied those allegations.
The amended lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Alaska Superior Court's Bethel Judicial District, adds as a defendant the Rev. Francis Case, who served as provincial from about 1986 to 1990. The suit claims Case would have had access to the personnel files of all priests, including so-called hell files containing damning information about certain priests.
As such, the suit claims, Case knew or should have known about the Rev. Francis Nawn, who is accused in the lawsuit of abusing three of the plaintiffs during the years Case was provincial. Nawn is deceased, according to plaintiffs' lawyers.
The lawsuit describes Case as Seattle University's head of campus ministry, and the school's Web site lists him in the faculty and staff directory as being involved in campus ministry.
But university officials said Case, who had been on assignment in Rome for 18 years, moved to Seattle in 2008 while on a sabbatical and is not employed at Seattle U and has no formal role or duties with campus ministry. Seattle University spokesman Casey Corr said the information on the Web site is not correct.
Case could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Though Seattle University is not named in the suit, plaintiffs' attorney Ken Roosa said "there's no doubt that we are going after Seattle University assets," contending the Jesuits own the school's assets, even though the school is a separate corporate entity.
"Seattle University had no role in the events alleged to have occurred in Alaska," Mary Petersen, Seattle University vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.
"The University is not owned, operated or governed by the Oregon Province," the formal name of the Jesuits in the Northwest.
"The entire Seattle University community is committed to compassion and healing for all victims of clerical sexual abuse," Petersen said.
The Very Rev. Patrick Lee, provincial of the Oregon Province, said it would be inappropriate to comment on Wednesday's suit since the province has not reviewed it.
"The province remains committed to justice and healing in all cases of misconduct and child abuse," Lee said.
The Oregon Province agreed last year to pay $50 million to settle an earlier suit filed by 110 Alaska Natives abused in remote villages.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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