Allegations: Alaska is a dumping ground for predator priests

A long-simmering story has burst into the open with the filing of a lawsuit alleging that the Jesuit order used Alaska as a “dumping ground” for abusive priests. According to coverage in the Anchorage Daily News, this week’s lawsuit is on behalf of 35 men and eight women, and another one is in the works with another 60 or so victims.
Sex abuse lawsuits aren’t new, but this case exposes one of the ugliest aspects of the scandal:

The new suit contends that pedophile priests unsuited to serve anywhere else were dumped on Alaska and put in remote villages with little or no law enforcement, making it virtually impossible for anyone to report them.
There was a calculated effort at the highest levels of the Jesuit order to “‘dump’ these ‘problem priests’ in a location in which the priests could avoid detection and continued to sexually abuse countless Native children,” the suit says.
Problem priests from seven Jesuit provinces in the United States as well as four other countries ended up in the rural villages, mostly in Western Alaska, [attorney Patrick] Wall said. “They were specifically targeting the Athabascan and the Yup’ik cultures, because they wouldn’t talk,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.


Whatever the merits of specific allegations (many people and the new head of the order are named, in the kind of blanket indictment typical of such a suit) this case underscores two points:
One, that religious orders are unique in their autonomy from ordinary church (or Roman) oversight. That has benefited the church in many cases, but worked against the church in this case. You can’t easily pin this phenomenon on “the Vatican.” But there does need to be closer oversight of the orders on the sex abuse issue, as they are not under the same level of inspection as the U.S. dioceses (whatever one thinks of the Charter, it is a powerful tool and has been effective in many respects).
Two, the Jesuits are not alone here. Orders everywhere, and many dioceses, used the international structure of the church to transfer “bad apples” as far away from prying eyes as possible. And that usually means inflicting them on the poorest of the poor, who are desperate and those with the least access to avenues of justice and the least motivation to try to seek justice.
The Diocese of Fairbanks is already in bankruptcy, so it looks like the main target for claims will have to be the Society of Jesus. Heartbreaking.

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Jonathan Sullivan

posted January 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Not a surprise. I would recommend a book inspired by the child sex abuse problems in Cardinal Law’s Boston Archdiocese, “Sex with THE Virgin Mary” is on line at When you read what Francis Cardinal George and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Chicago and Atlanta Archdioceses respectfully say about the novel you will understand why the Roman Catholic Church is doing its best to surpress this book.

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posted January 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

“When the last brick of the last church falls and hits the last priest on the head and kills him, there will be safety for children in the world.”
Right, cause all the child prostitution rings in Indonesia, Thailand, and all the countries of the third world are working hand in hand with churches, aren’t they?

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posted January 16, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Wow. No shortage of vitriol here. But as for me, I say send them all to Wasilla. They’ll be appreciated there.

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Joe Barone

posted January 17, 2009 at 11:27 am

What a nasty practice. When will the Catholic church learn? You have to wonder what is going on about abuse in countries other than the U.S.

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posted January 17, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I’m a Catholic who was sexually abused as a child. But not by a Catholic priest or nun. In fact, I wasn’t Catholic then but a Hindu. I was raped by a married man who worked for my father. Some of the comments in response to this post are clearly written out of pure hate and anger against the Church. I can understand this, given some of the terrible stories that came out of the scandals. But I beg people to really understand that sexual abuse is pervasive in society and not confined to the Church. Children are being raped by their family members, teachers, soccer coaches, etc. It is tempting to blame one institution for pedophilia, but you do no favor to the children who continue to be abused.

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Your Name

posted January 19, 2009 at 11:22 am

What many people forget, as anonymous started to point out, is that this problem pervades all parts of society.
There is more sexual abuse taking place in the public school system in this country than just about anywhere else. How many stories of female teachers hooking up with 14 or 15 or 16 year old students have we all heard. Or the male teachers, coaches and student advisors having taken young girls for years and then get sent to other school systems after someone finds out. Does the government or school boards step in and clean up this practice under their own noses? No…they just ship the offending teacher elsewhere unless they get prosecuted when a parent or student finally speaks up.
So the Catholic church isn’t alone in this matter. In fact it is often said that the church gets its priests from the same society that lets this abuse take place around them.
If you want “good priests” clean up the rest of society first. The “good priests” that are still left can’t be blamed for the sick perversions of the world around them.

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Karen Brown

posted January 20, 2009 at 10:48 am

Umm.. Last I checked, teaching and coaching positions don’t work like that. School districts, particularly from state to state, are independent from other states. You can’t ‘ship’ a teacher from an Elementary School in Wisconsin to one in Alaska.
What they could (and possibly would) do is to hush it up, and let them go without it being on their records, so they are FREE to take jobs other places, to avoid liability for their actions.
But teachers aren’t part of giant corporations that can ship them from subsidiary to subsidiary.
The ‘government’ concerned when it comes to teaching positions would be State, not Federal.
The Church may not be alone in this matter, but the unique organizational makeup, and the seal of the confessional, etc, do make for a unique situation when it comes to what can be DONE about such priests.
If you are going to wait for the entire society to ‘clean up’ before getting good priests, then there never will be good priests. And if society could manage to do so, what would the priests be needed for anyway?

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