PORTLAND, Ore. – More than 500 people have filed claims of abuse against the Oregon province of the Society of Jesus, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early this year citing pending lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse claims.
Lawyers and survivors of abuse traveled throughout the Northwest urging victims to come forward before a Nov. 30 deadline for filing abuse claims. The province’s Web site also provided the form needed to file a claim.
The deadline was set by the federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings for the Portland-based providence that serves Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
The Jesuits have already spent about $25 million since 2001 to settle 200 sex abuse claims, according to the province. The claims were primarily from Alaskans who said they were abused as children by priests.
The Portland-based U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon was to rule on whether Jesuit schools such as Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties should be counted as part of the assets available to pay accusers.
But the presidents of both Jesuit-run universities have pointed out that their institutions are completely separate from the province.
In bankruptcy documents, the province listed assets of less than $5 million and liabilities of nearly $62 million.
When the province filed bankruptcy in February, Jesuit Father Patrick Lee, provincial, said the decision was not easy but was the only way “that all claimants can be offered a fair financial settlement within the limited resources of the province.”
He also said he hoped the province’s bankruptcy filing “could begin to bring this sad chapter in our province’s history to an end.”