Abuse Victims' Lawyer Isn't Just Targeting Assets of Oregon Jesuits; He's Going After Rome

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An old boarding schools for Tulalip Indians
The claims are in. According to a tally released yesterday, a total of 505 people met the Nov. 30 deadline set by a federal judge to lodge allegations of abuse against the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province.

The case is the largest abuse proceeding in the country involving Native Americans, and the first that centers on Indian reservations in the Northwest. The alleged victims--who suffered at repressive boarding schools run by the Jesuits--hope to receive a share of assets from the province, which is now in bankruptcy. But since that's may not be enough to compensate all the victims, one Seattle plaintiffs' attorney has another idea.

The total cost to the Jesuits could be astronomical. In similar bankruptcy proceedings filed by California dioceses in recent years, settlements to abuse victims averaged approximately $1.4 million an individual--which would amount to a total $700 million due from the Oregon Province.

With a sum like that, Timothy Kosnoff, a Seattle attorney who represents 130 of the individuals filing claims, says he plans to argue that the Jesuits Worldwide needs to be held financially accountable.

Just as Buick is a subsidiary of General Motors, Kosnoff analogizes, so he says "the facts we believe will demonstrate that Oregon Province is a wholly owned subsidiary of the worldwide order." He says he has received memos and correspondence showing that Rome dictated appointments in the province and other matters.

An Oregon Province spokesperson could not be reached for comment, but Kosnoff says the province is attempting to show that it is autonomous. It encompasses five states across the region, including Washington. It is also affiliated with Seattle University and Spokane's Gonzaga University, although their precise relationship with the province--and whether their assets should be counted in the bankruptcy proceeding-- remain in question.

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