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New list of Catholic priest abuse on West Coast includes dozens of Jesuits with Spokane-area ties

December 8, 2018

The Jesuit order of the Catholic Church on the West Coast released a list of names of “credibly accused” clergy Friday in response to renewed concern nationwide about sexual abuse by priests.

Among the dozens of listed names are 62 priests with ties to the Inland Northwest, where Jesuit history reaches back to the early 19th century. And it includes an ousted president of Gonzaga University.

Following the revelation of widespread abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston in 2002, victims came forward in Spokane and throughout the region alleging similar conduct that resulted in bankruptcy filings by the Jesuits and also the local diocese.

Provincial Father Scott Santorosa of Jesuits West included a letter in conjunction with the new list naming 111 priests. The list was one of several that have been authored by other regions of the U.S. identifying priests “against whom a credible claim of sexual abuse of a minor (under the age of 18) or a vulnerable adult has been made.”

“We do so because the People of God demand and deserve transparency. We do so because we hope that this act of accountability will help victims and their families in the healing process,” Santorosa said of the province’s release of the names.

Jesuits West, formed last year, is comprised of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska, along with Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii.

Many of the cases included claims made by Alaska Natives or American Indians. Jesuit leaders moved priests accused of sex abuse to Alaska Native villages and Indian reservations across the West.

Some of the clergy involved were notorious, including the Rev. Augustine Ferretti, who was accused by 34 people who claimed he abused them. He died in 1982, two years after he was assigned to Gonzaga University.

Some Indian children from the Sacred Heart Chruch in Lapawai, Idaho called him “Father Freddy.”

The list also includes the late Rev. John Leary, who was the president of Gonzaga University.

Leary, who was accused of sexually abusing boys, was given a 24-hour ultimatum by Spokane police in 1969 to leave town or face arrest.

It took the Jesuits 37 years to reveal the scandal and cover-up. There are no police reports or other public records on the Leary matter. However, the Jesuits disclosed internal documents regarding Leary 12 years ago.

Leary died in 1993, and the Jesuits have acknowledged paying money to settle allegations brought by his victims.

Upon releasing the Jesuit list Friday, Santorosa also apologized to victims and their families, calling the abuse “a legacy we cannot ignore.”

Watchdog and victim’s advocacy groups have applauded the Catholic Church’s release of the names, while also pointing out that the sign of transparency is long overdue.

“These lists also expose men who may not have been previously identified as dangerous but who may be living and working in places that give them access to children,” read a statement released Thursday from SNAP, a national network of survivors of priest abuse. “Still, the fact remains that this is a long-overdue move prompted only by pressure from prosecutors, parishioners and the public.”

SNAP called on the church to push for independent law enforcement investigations of their handling of sex crime cases. Jesuits West said it will review its own files of priest abuse along with Kathleen McChesney, a former assistant executive director of the FBI, beginning early next year.

The church organization said that the list is not meant to imply guilt on the behalf of all named individuals. Many of the priests listed died before investigations could be conducted.

And many of those on the list with ties to Spokane arrived in town as part of their retirements, decades after abusive behavior was reported to have occurred.

Though the Jesuit order is separate from Spokane Catholic Diocese, its abuse scandal affected the local church.

In October, Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review that sexual abuse by the clergy was “a moral crisis” after new cases were uncovered in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

On Friday, the Diocese released a statement again apologizing for the abuse that occurred in the region.

“The move by the Jesuits to release the names of the credibly accused is in line with the policies and actions of the Diocese of Spokane,” the statement read. “For over a decade we have maintained and published a list of credibly accused clergy through print media and on the Diocesan website. As the Church works through the difficult issues of abuse and corruption within her own ranks we thank God for the bravery of the victims, the tireless work of investigators and the faithful service of so many lay men and women.”

The S-R’s John Stucke contributed to this report.

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