PORTLAND, Ore., May 29 (AP)--Twenty-five men have accused a Roman Catholic priest of abusing them as children.

At a news conference Monday, Doug Ray said that from the third or fourth grade until he was a freshman in high school, his parish priest subjected him to "an incremental scale of sexual abuse as bad as one can imagine, and worse."

Joe Elliott claims he had a similar experience with the same priest, the Rev. Maurice Grammond.

"My parents entrusted us to Grammond, believing this would be the last place harm would come to us. He and the church broke that trust," Elliott said.

Elliott, 41, was the first to accuse Grammond in a lawsuit in December. Others joined gradually, with 13 joining in Friday. Ray and Elliott said they were molested during the 1970s in Seaside, where Ray is a city councilman. Elliott is a hairdresser in Portland.

Both sat in front of enlarged photos of themselves as grade school students and seemed on the verge of tears at times. Several other plaintiffs were present but kept their anonymity.

The archdiocese issued a statement on Friday, saying it confronted Grammond after an accusation in 1991 and that Grammond denied the claims.

"The Archbishop sent him for professional assessment and suspended him of all priestly ministry," the statement said. Grammond has not been charged with any crime.

Attorney David Slader said the statute of limitations prevents criminal prosecution of Grammond, who is 79, and living in the Alzheimer's unit of a retirement center in suburban Portland.

But he said civil suits can be pursued for up to three years from the time a victim "discovers...significant injury in his life" resulting from molestation.

The lawsuit, which seeks at least $4.6 million for each defendant, was filed against Grammond, the archbishop and the Archdiocese of Portland, and others.

The archdiocese is accused, among other things, of failure to notify parishioners of Grammond's past molestations of boys, failure to monitor his activities and advise authorities, and failure to have other adults accompany Grammond on camping trips and other youth activities.

Slader said the case is the biggest of its kind after the case of the Rev. James Porter of Massachusetts, who was accused by 99 people of molesting them while they were children in the 1950s and 1960s. He pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting 28 children and was sentenced to 18-20 years in prison.

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