Sunday, October 23, 2005

Alaska a magnet for problem priests?

This relates to the previous post, I think.

Alaska a magnet for problem priests?
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A recent string of lawsuits accusing Roman Catholic priests of molesting children has reinforced suspicions among some critics of the church that remote Alaska was a dumping ground for problem clergy.

"I absolutely believe that church officials intentionally sent abusive priests to minor communities, transient communities, where kids may be less apt to tell and have less faith in the justice system," said David Clohessy, national director of Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Four priests who served in Alaska have been sued over the past two weeks, with the most recent case brought Thursday against a Jesuit accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 1980 in the Eskimo village of St. Marys, some 500 miles southwest of Fairbanks.

All together, 12 priests who served in Alaska have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. Most of the alleged abuse occurred in remote villages, and most of the alleged victims were Alaska Natives.

Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine priest and consultant for a Costa Mesa, California, law firm that has worked on more than 300 church abuse allegations nationwide, said rural Alaska was a prime place to send abusive priests. Alaska's isolation and its cultural reverence for authority figures, such as elders and priests, meant parishioners would be less likely to speak up.

The number of priests accused is a small percentage of the 500 who served in Alaska between 1959 and 2002. But Wall said he has interviewed more than 100 Alaskans who have complained of abuse, and "I'm quite sure that by the time this runs its course, we can expect over 200 clients."

No comments: