ANCHORAGE - A Roman Catholic religious order has agreed to pay $50 million to more than 100 Alaska natives who allege sexual abuse by Jesuit priests, a lawyer for the accusers said yesterday.
The settlement with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is the largest one yet against a Catholic religious order, said Anchorage lawyer Ken Roosa, who called it "a great day" for the 110 victims.
"These are people who were altar boys and altar servers and altar girls," Roosa said. "These are people who tried to tell their story and in many instances were beaten or told to shut up and told, 'How can you say such things about a man of God?' "
The settlement does not require the order to admit fault, Roosa said. None of the priests were ever criminally charged.
The settlement announcement is premature because some issues need to be finalized, said the Very Rev. John Whitney, provincial superior of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, which covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.
"When those issues are resolved we will be available for a more complete discussion of the matter," Whitney said in a prepared statement. He described the settlement announcement as "premature and detrimental."
Roosa said issues involving the plaintiffs had been resolved. The only issues that remained were with the religious order's insurer, he said. The sexual abuse allegations involved 13 or 14 clerics and spanned 26 years, from 1961 to 1987.