The trail of broken lives and trampled trust left by alleged Jesuit sex abusers in missions throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska has led to a spate of 240 lawsuits filed against the bankrupt church.
The Jesuit province, which filed for bankruptcy in February, includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The number of suits could rise to 500 if the Pacific Northwest Indian file as many suits as the Alaska Natives by the Nov. 30 deadline.
The Seattle Times notes that the assets and futures of some Washington schools — including Seattle U and Gonzaga U — could be at stake. Victims say those assets belong to the province and can be used to pay debts; the schools and the province say the schools are “sponsored” by the Jesuits but are separately incorporated and therefore legally and financially independent.
The court will decide that question. The Jesuits say they have paid more than $25 million on more than 200 claims.
Much of the abuse is alleged to have occurred when tribal children were forced to attend Christian schools during the Indian boarding-school era.
Most of Washington’s 35 victims who have chosen to be plaintiffs say they were abused at St. Mary’s, the defunct Colville Indian Reservation school. Victims across the state and the Pacific Northwest say high ranking church officials knew of the abuse .