Alaska Natives sue Jesuit order for abuse

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009

SEATTLE - The Jesuit order has been sued by 43 Alaska Natives who say they were sexually abused as children, and mounting evidence shows that known pedophile priests were sent to the Fairbanks, Alaska, Diocese for decades, a lawyer said Wednesday.

Jesuit institutions named as defendants include the Society of Jesus in Rome; the Oregon Province of the Catholic order, which covers Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana; the Pioneer Educational Society, the province's educational arm and parent institution of Seattle University and Gonzaga University in Spokane, and the Alaska branch of the order.

Individual defendants are the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, the order's superior general; the Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, provincial, or head of the Jesuit province, from 1990-96 and president of Seattle University since July 1997; two aging priests, the Revs. Anton Smario and Henry G. Hargreaves, and 100 people whose names are unknown to plaintiffs.

The claims of abuse range from fondling to child rape decades ago in Nulato, Hooper Bay, Stebbins, Chevak, Mountain Village, Nunam Iqua and St. Michael, Alaska.

Sundborg and the Very Rev. Patrick J. Lee, head of the Oregon province, denied that they knew of sexual wrongdoing or were involved in covering up wrongdoing by priests in Alaska, although the order has paid millions of dollars in recent years to settle sexual abuse claims in Alaska.

Faced with rising abuse lawsuits, the Fairbanks diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

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