Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Second woman joins suit accusing priest of abuse
Anchorage, Alaska - A second woman has joined a lawsuit against a longtime Roman Catholic priest, alleging she was sexually abused as a child in the Western Alaska community of Hooper Bay.
The plaintiff, identified as June Doe 2, contends she was molested by the Rev. Richard L. McCaffrey after catechism sessions in the early 1980s. Like June Doe 1, she is seeking more than $50,000 for pain and suffering, with the exact award to be determined at trial.
The amended lawsuit, filed Friday in Bethel, names McCaffrey, the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska and the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province. The initial lawsuit was filed in August.
McCaffrey, reached by phone Monday in Spokane, Wash., said he had not seen the lawsuit.
"I don't know anything about it. I'm sorry," he said. He referred further questions to his Fairbanks attorney, John Franich, who said his office has not been served with even the original lawsuit. He knows only what he hears in news reports, he said.
"We will certainly respond to it when we're served, at which time we will categorically deny any allegations," Franich said. "Father McCaffrey has never had any inappropriate sexual contact with any of his parishioners."
McCaffrey, 62, had been pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Fairbanks since 1998 and had worked in a number of Alaska parishes since the early 1970s.
The Jesuit priest was removed from ministerial duties in the Fairbanks diocese while church officials looked into allegations reported earlier this year to Alaska State Troopers, who could not pursue an investigation because the statute of limitations had passed.
The lawsuit alleges McCaffrey molested the first plaintiff in Tununak, a Western Alaska village, between 1978 and 1979, and the second plaintiff in Hooper Bay in 1980 and 1981. Both Yupik Eskimo villages are more than 600 miles southwest of the diocese, which serves 47 parishes throughout the Interior, the North Slope and the west coast of Alaska.
In Tununak, the complaint states, "Father McCaffrey would tell Plaintiff that their actions were 'pure,' like those acts of Adam and Eve, in order to make Plaintiff believe this molestation was normal."
Both girls were 10 years old when the alleged abuse began, said Ken Roosa, an Anchorage attorney who has represented others alleging past abuse by Alaska-based priests. In both cases, the abuse took place after catechism in McCaffrey's sleeping quarters, court documents state.
"This was ritual abuse, using catechism to have access to the girls," Roosa said. "That was his means of gaining private and unfettered access to these little kids."
The 20-page civil complaint asserts church officials knew about McCaffrey's inclinations, but failed to protect parishioners.
Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler was unavailable for comment, but his assistant Fred Villa said diocese officials had not seen the lawsuit.
"Certainly, wherever harm has been done, we want to help in the healing process, but regarding this suit, we can't comment on it," Villa said.
Roosa said plaintiffs have 120 days to serve defendants from the time a lawsuit is filed. He plans to serve the complaint next week.
The latest allegations also were news to the Rev. John Whitney, provincial of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, based in Portland. The Jesuit province covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
"This is the first I've heard of it," Whitney said. "I do know that Father McCaffrey has denied any wrongdoing. He's given me a blanket denial of any misconduct with minors."
See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.
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