January 23, 2005
Woman suing for abuse comes face to face with accused priest
THE REV. JAMES POOLE: After she filed against him, two others followed her lead.
January 23, 2005 [Anchorage Daily News] By Nicole Tsong
When the woman known as Jane Doe 1 entered the room for the deposition of the Rev. James Poole, the Jesuit priest she has accused of molesting her as a child in Nome, she hadn't seen him in more than a decade.
He looked smaller than she remembered. He spoke almost like a little kid about their interaction. But his scent, the intimate smell of someone that rekindles memories, hadn't changed.
"It was the same smell," she recalled in a recent interview, before taking a break to compose herself.
Jane Doe sued Poole, the Diocese of Fairbanks, the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province and Alaska Jesuits in March last year, accusing the priest who founded Catholic radio station KNOM of molesting her as a child. Two other women subsequently filed similar molestation claims against the priest, who is 81 and lives in a Jesuit home in Spokane, Wash.
Poole has called some of the allegations against him "highly inflammatory and highly exaggerated" and has denied others.
Jane Doe, 37 and originally from the Bethel area, has accused Poole of molesting her more than 100 times, starting in 1978 in Nome during summer visits when she was 10 and lasting until she was 16. The abuse included kissing, heavy petting and having her lie on top of him, the suit says. She said he had her sit on his lap and they kissed for hours.
Jane Doe, who has remained anonymous since she filed the lawsuit, said she didn't intend to sue the church when she first reported Poole to church officials.
She initially approached the church after she heard about another lawsuit filed by men claiming sexual abuse by the Rev. Jules Convert. Still a practicing Catholic, she wanted to see how the church would respond. After she had trouble contacting Fairbanks' then-chancellor, the Rev. Richard Case, over the phone and grew increasingly anxious and emotional, she wrote Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler a letter dated Sept. 20 outlining her complaints.
An interview in person with the bishop in September didn't help, she said. She said he continually referred to the legal issues involved, when she wanted him to be compassionate, listen to her and tell her it was OK to feel the way she did.
Kettler said recently that he went into that interview without much information about Jane Doe or Poole.
"My intention was not to somehow frustrate her, but my intention was to offer counseling," he said. "I don't think I had any preconceived intentions. I just wanted to work with her the best I could."
But she was troubled by subsequent discussions about counseling, she said. She felt the bishop made it difficult by putting parameters on paying for a counselor. She decided then to discuss suing with attorney Ken Roosa.
"I've never had a client less eager to see me," Roosa said. But "she wanted to be treated in a pastoral fashion, to be treated as a human being and a Catholic."
The Jesuits now pay for her counseling, she said.
Jane Doe said she always knew the relationship with Poole was wrong and told friends about it in the past. But only recently, with the help of a counselor, did she realize it was sexual abuse, she said.
Poole was a close family friend, and she has come to regard the relationship as incestuous, Jane Doe said. He took advantage of her vulnerability, she said, telling her he loved her and that she was special.
"I can see now it was a sick relationship," she said. "How could I kiss a priest? It just seems so absurd."
Jane Doe said she also feels that the church does not want to take responsibility for what happened. Most recently, attorneys for Poole and the diocese have asked the judge to dismiss the case based on the statute of limitations, arguing the claims were too old to consider under the law. The Alaska Supreme Court already is considering that argument in the Convert case, which has plaintiffs with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s.
Jane Doe still carries the letter she wrote Kettler in her purse, its edges now worn. She said she hopes to settle the case but is ready to go to trial if she has to.
"It's just appalling to me," she said. "They know the truth."
Posted by Nancy at January 23, 2005 05:32 PM