Priest sues abbey, charging sex abuse

It’s almost unheard of for a priest to sue over allegations that he was sexually abused, but it’s happening right now in Oregon.

Details, from the Oregonian:

A Roman Catholic priest who says he was sexually mistreated as a teenager in the 1970s by a priest at Mt. Angel Abbey is suing the abbey for more than $1 million.

The priest, who was ordained in 1986, is identified in the lawsuit only as Father X.

It’s rare for priests to sue for alleged sexual mistreatment they suffered as children at the hands of church leaders. David Clohessy, executive director of the Missouri-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said several have filed claims. The first was in 1993 when Father Gary Hayes sued a New Jersey diocese claiming two priests sexually abused him when he was a boy.

Father X claims that the late Father Emmanuel Clark hugged him with his pants unzipped; pressed his head to his chest and told him that his heart beat with love for him; referred to him by a pet name; and encouraged him to go to adult book stores.

Newport attorney Bill Barton, who is representing Father X along with Portland attorney Erin Olson, said his client thought carefully about whether he would seek compensation for a lifetime of damages caused by the alleged abuse.

“He’s a man of great conscience and integrity, and this is not an easy thing for him to do,” Barton said. The suit was filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

According to the suit, the sexually inappropriate behavior caused Father X physical and emotional pain, an eating disorder, shame, anxiety, sexual orientation confusion, loss of professional identity and loss of his religious faith.

Stephen English, a Portland attorney representing the abbey, noted that none of the alleged conduct involved sexual touching. English said he will fully investigate whether the alleged hugging and other conduct by the now-deceased priest led to the damages Father X claims.

Read more at the link.


  1. TeresaBenedicta says:

    I really don’t understand the concept of lawsuits in cases like these. What happened was terrible– absolutely. But is money really going to make it any better? Surely a priest, of all people, ought to recognize that no amount of money is going to heal his wounds or reconcile the situation.

    The only time that lawsuits involving monetary compensation really make sense to me is when there are medical bills that need to be paid by the offender. Otherwise, from the Christian perspective… “You wronged me, now pay me lots of money,” just really doesn’t make any sense.

    I don’t know. There’s just something that seems a bit off to me.

  2. pagansister says:

    Why did Father X become a priest if indeed a priest mistreated him when he was younger?

  3. Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher says:

    I have never sued either the perpetrator or the superiors of the perpetrator of my abuse. That being said, after years of trying to get Mount Angel to publicly acknowledge the abuse and work to have the abuser removed from the priesthood, to no avail, I can understand why someone might be driven to sue. All the apologies in the world are useless unless strong action is taken. In the case of Fr. X, his abuser is dead, however, I wonder if he tried to have the Abbey publicly acknowledge the abuse, and when the abuser was alive, to have him censured in some way. It is extremely frustrating. Even though the abbot was very kind and attentive, he did not meet my requests for justice in my case. I do not believe in litigation, but, again, I can understand those that resort to it after years of beating their head against the wall.

  4. Father X is the only one to decide how best to handle and respond to the abuse he suffered. Other abuse victims must make their own determination as to the best way to seek healing and how to best promote justice in the community. The most dangerous temptation facing any religious superior is to choose to cover up and attempt to suppress complaints. Any Abbot, no matter how kind and attentive he may be, is only a heart beat away from compounding the abuse and hiding in the darkness by choosing mistakenly to “protect the community from scandal” rather than honestly confessing the harm done by one of his monks and bringing healing to the victim who came to the monastery as a very young man. Someone asked why Father X, having been abused by a priest, continued to follow his calling to the priesthood. He is a man of great conscience and integrity and no doubt he believed deeply in the mystery of Godliness. It is a great tragedy that he was disappointed by those who had committed themselves to faithfully guiding young men like him in the search for God.

  5. Fiergenholt says:

    Maybe to answer TeresaBenedicta #1

    Once upon a time an bishop of a small diocese had a strange challenge. He was the native of that diocese and his “home” parish was going to receive a new pastor in that year’s pastoral rotations. Our bishop picked a good friend/seminary classmate.

    What the bishop may have known (or may not — too late to find out) was that this priest friend had a serious psychological problem. When (and if) he got drunk, he would physically and sexually assault adult women.

    Sure enough, the early warning signs began showing up. Even when he was sober, the pastor started sexually harassing certain women in his parish — including the wife of one of his own parish’s permanently ordained deacons. None of the women who were his victims ever complained publicly (although they did warn each other). Apparently the thought was that no one would believe them — especially the bishop.

    One specific incident happened that was particularly repulsive and that husband/wife combination did file a formal complaint with the diocese. No one followed up on it and the bishop himself tried to sweep it under the rug. Finally this couple filed a “John and Jane Doe” lawsuit naming the priest/pastor by name. Local news media picked it up immediately and it went public

    Once that happened, all support for that bishop and that specific priest/pastor ceased immediately. More victims came out and wrote up incident reports. Finally, the pastor was removed “for cause” mid-stream.

    Some time after all that had blown over, the parish deacon (who apparently was totally unaware of any of this harassment) finally mentioned to his wife that he thought the pastor had been “framed” on “trumped-up” charges. She finally broke her own silence and told him what had happened to her.

    In this case, it was a formal lawsuit that finally brought this issue to resolution.


  1. RT @TopsyRT: Shock: priest sues abbey, charges sex abuse

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