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Template:Context The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, United States is an important chapter in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States. During its course, Archbishop John G. Vlazny filed for bankruptcy.

Open letter

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. The filing seeks to protect parish assets, school money and trust funds from plaintiffs: the archdiocese's contention isTemplate: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.[1][not in citation given]

Criticisms of Archbishop Levada

Some have criticized how Levada dealt priests who had committed sexual abuse in Portland and in San Francisco.[2] 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.[3]

Regarding the Portland case, the legal counsel for the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, learned that one of the priests whom he knew personally was charged with pedophilia. The lawyer told the Archbishop that the man must be removed from his position and put into treatment by a psychiatrist. The Archbishop refused to follow this advice and when the lawyer insisted the man be removed from his post, the bishop removed the lawyer and his firm as legal counsel and took a person who had been in that law office to handle legal affairs but who would do as the bishop wanted.[citation needed]

The lawyer who asked that the pedophile be removed was renounced[clarification needed] from the altar of his home parish for not following the Archbishop's wishes.[citation needed] Subsequently the pedophile priest skipped bail and was found with a young boy in another city.[citation needed] Levada has been criticized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for failing to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from active ministry and for keeping documents about those priests secret."[4]

As President and Chancellor of Saint Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Archbishop Levada dealt with the dismissal of his academic dean at the seminary, Fr. Carl Anthony Schipper, after the dean's arrest in Santa Rosa on charges apparently related to child pornography and sexual abuse.[5]

Deposition and subpoena

Before taking up his assignment at the Vatican, Levada agreed to be deposed and questioned regarding his activities and leadership of archdiocese as it related to the claims. However, there are reports that he made efforts to avoid being served with a suspoena. At his leaving service in San Francisco, Levada agreed to accept the subpoena before the service, after being informed that if he did not accept service, he would be served during the leaving service. It was reported that Levada was reported to have said to the process server these actions "were a disgrace to the Church" while others have commented that his actual comment "were a disgrace to the legal profession". The deposition occurred in January 2006 with Levada appearing in San Francisco. He came to the proceeding wearing a business suit


The Archdiocese of Portland filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on July 6, 2004, hours before two abuse trials were set to begin. Portland became the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy.[6][7]

Relationship with the Fairbanks diocesan scandal

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.[8][9]

More complaints

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.[10]

See also


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