What are my rights if I was abused by a Catholic priest?

Over the last fifteen years, hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have come forward and demanded justice. Many victims were children, whose abuse dates back decades. Here in Oregon, these suits forced the Archdiocese of Portland to declare bankruptcy in April, 2007, after it paid out more than $50 million to a 175 victims. As part of the bankruptcy agreement, the Archdiocese of Portland was forced to set aside $20 million for any future claimants who could prove they suffered abuse. That $20 million fund will expire in 2017.

The Catholic cases have reached all the way to the Vatican in Rome. A group of U.S. attorneys have fought a battle against the Vatican in Oregon’s federal court system for nearly ten years. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Michael Mossman ordered the Vatican to produce documents regarding the abuse (the tricky part is that the documents produced are vast and in Latin). In August, Mossman dismissed the lawsuit against the Vatican, concluding that the Vatican did not directly employee the alleged abuser Father Andrew Ronan (the victim’s attorneys plan to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Our firm filed a case last year on behalf of a 34-year-old Eugene man who was abused from 1986 until the mid-1990s by Father Donald Durand. An article by Bryan Denson in The Oregonian outlines how Fr. Durand has been accused of abusing at least 11 men over a 40 year period, and how Durand, in a July 2005 deposition invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination more than 80 times.

If you or someone you know was victimized by a Catholic priest, you should contact an Oregon attorney to determine your legal rights. Under Oregon law ORS 12.117, a victim abused before the age of 18 can bring a claim at any time before they turn 40 or 5 years after they discover the causal connection between the child abuse and their injuries, whichever period is long

To find out if the Catholic Church has documents relating to an Archdiocese of Portland priest, you can go to www.archdiocesedocuments.org and search by specific priests (as ordered by the Hon. Michael Hogan in November of 2008). To check on bishops nationally, you can go to www.bishop-accountability.org and look up documents of specific priests.

Remember, you are not alone.

UPDATE: Click here to learn more about our firm’s work on sex abuse cases