Sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Portland

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The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon in the United States is an important chapter in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States. During its course in July 2004, the archdiocese under Archbishop John George Vlazny filed for bankruptcy.


The Archdiocese of Portland filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on July 6, 2004. Portland became the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy.[1]

An open letter to the archdiocese's parishioners explained the archbishop's motivation:[citation needed]

This is not an effort to avoid responsibility. It is, in fact, the only way I can assure that other claimants can be offered fair compensation. We have worked diligently to settle claims of clergy misconduct. In the last four years, we have settled more than 100 such claims. Last year alone the Archdiocese paid almost $21 million from its own funds. Major insurers have abandoned us and are not paying what they should on the claims.
Two cases are set for trials beginning today. One plaintiff seeks more than $130 million in compensatory and punitive damages, the other $25 million. We have made every effort to settle these claims fairly but the demand of each of these plaintiffs remains in the millions. I am committed to just compensation. These demands go beyond compensation. With 60 other claims pending, I cannot in justice and prudence pay the demands of these two plaintiffs.

The archdiocese had settled more than one hundred previous claims for a sum of over $53 million prior to the filing seeks to protect parish assets, school money and trust funds from plaintiffs: the archdiocese's contention is[when?] that parish assets are not the archdiocese's assets. Plaintiffs in the cases against the archdiocese have argued that the Catholic Church is a single entity, and that the Vatican should be liable for any damages awarded in judgment of pending sexual abuse cases.[2][not in citation given]

After the filing, an April 29, 2005 deadline was set by the bankruptcy court to allow other people to file complaints. According to an October 2005 archbishop's column in the Catholic Sentinel, nearly 200 more claims of all kinds were filed as a result. That column also noted that the archdiocese has filed suit against insurance companies to compel them to contribute financially to the settlement expected to arise out of the reorganization.

A press release issued by the Archdiocese of Portland on April 17, 2007 announced a settlement plan had been reached and a bankruptcy court had approved a financial plan of reorganization.[3]

Criticisms of Archbishop Levada[edit]

Some have criticized how Archbishop William Levada is alleged to have dealt with priests who had committed sexual abuse in Portland and in San Francisco.[4] According to Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-abortion rights lobbying group not affiliated with the Catholic Church, Levada "shielded a pedophile in the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, for approximately nine years, which helped lead to the bankruptcy of the diocese and earned the wrath of survivor groups for his actions on the Vatican’s commission to revise the US bishops’ sex abuse norms."[5]

Relationship with the Fairbanks diocesan scandal[edit]

The lawsuits in the Fairbanks diocese have also affected the Jesuit chapter in the diocese of Portland, given that the Western Province of the American Jesuits is located in the State of Oregon.[6][7]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]