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January 15, 2005

More abuse allegations surface against priest

January 14, 2005 Fairbanks, AK [News Miner]

Three more men have stepped forward with allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Francis X. Nawn.

The attorney for Jack Does 2-4 filed a civil suit Thursday in Bethel Superior Court seeking damages from the Fairbanks Diocese for allowing Nawn, who is believed to be deceased, to prey on children as he ministered in Southwestern Alaska.

Jack Doe 1 came forward last month with abuse allegations against Nawn and another deceased Jesuit priest, the Rev. Segundo Llorente. Jack Does 2-4 accuse only Nawn. The defendants in the suit are the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska; the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province; and the Society of Jesus, Alaska.

"I just sort of think this is like all the rest," said Bishop Donald Kettler, who wasn't contacted by the victims prior to the filing of the suit. "We're trying to work with as many as we need to. We're trying to treat everyone fairly and justly."

The three new complaints bring the number of people claiming abuse in the sprawling Fairbanks Diocese to 59. Four priests--Nawn, Llorente, James Poole and Jules Convert--face accusations from 23 people. Only Poole, 81, is still alive. He lives in Spokane, Wash.

Another man, Joseph C. Lundowski, a likely deceased church volunteer with a disputed history, is accused by 34 men of the most serious sexual abuse.

Fourteen of the 18 men accusing Convert of abuse have settled with the Jesuit's Oregon Province, while two have settled with the Fairbanks Diocese. And Patricia Hess, who accused Poole of abuse, settled with the diocese and never filed a legal claim.

Terms of the settlements haven't been disclosed, though attorney Ken Roosa said the Oregon Province agreed to pay for the college education of some of the children of Convert accusers in addition to a cash payment. Jack Does 1-4 are asking for damages of $100,000 on each claim. Roosa and attorneys who represent a victim customarily receive a percentage of any settlement or trial jury award.

Groseclose said church officials have met with about seven of those claiming abuse. Jack Doe 1 has a meeting with Kettler later this month.

"Now that there are three new Jack Does, we can extend an invitation to them," said attorney Robert Groseclose, who represents the diocese.

Roosa, an Anchorage-based lawyer who represents 58 of the 59 people making claims, said previous meetings have been disappointing for his clients.

"We'll go through with it because it's the right thing to do," Roosa said, "but I'm not expecting much out of it."

When asked why, Roosa responded: "They've never been helpful. The bishop has never said anything that was particularly helpful."

The claims filed by Jack Does 2-4 are similar to those of Jack Doe 1. At the time of the abuse, all four men lived in Sheldon Point. State law allows the men to make their claims anonymously in civil court.

Jack Doe 1 accused Nawn of abusing him between the ages of 13 and 14 while Nawn visited Sheldon Point from his normal duties in Holy Cross in 1963 and '64. On more than five separate occasions, according to the complaint, Nawn invited the boy to his quarters to spend the night then abused him.

Jack Doe 2-4 all said they were abused between the years of 1970 and '74 in the same village, which sits on the Black River in the Yukon River Delta. All were under the age of 12 and were sexually abused during what all three men call "wrestling matches."

The men also said Nawn had the boys lay on top of girls in his living quarters and simulate sexual intercourse while he watched. In turn, the suit said, he told each boy it would be a sin to tell anyone about the abuse and gave the child candy.

"Every molester seems to develop a pattern or practice that works for him or her ...," Roosa said. "Once they hit upon something that works, they do it again and again."

No other men have come forward with claims against Llorente. Jack Doe 1's complaint said others were also molested by the priest at the same time he was.

Each of the claims against Nawn indicate the presence of others at the time of some of the abuse. While no one else has come forward, Roosa believes there are more living victims who might file suit.

"I know of over half a dozen other victims," Roosa said. "I have not spoken to them yet. Jack Doe 2 and 3 have given me information about more victims."

Posted by Nancy at January 15, 2005 05:05 AM