A decision by federal bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris against the Archdiocese of Portland “will lead to a new class of victims and cause more suffering among the children and the needy of Oregon,” said lawyer Robert Le Chevallier in a column in last week’s Oregonian.
Two weeks ago, Perris ruled that the assets of Catholic parishes and schools are subject to the hundreds of millions of dollars in claims of child sex-abuse plaintiffs.
“Generations of Catholics contributed their hard-earned salaries to build those parishes, schools and social service agencies,” said Le Chevallier. These groups also established endowment funds to enable those of modest means to attend Catholic schools but, because of the judge’s decision, these funds are among those that can be tapped for compensation.
The decision also puts funds used to provide millions of dollars in charitable services each year at risk. These services include social services to the poor, refugees and immigrants, the elderly and the sick, Le Chevallier pointed out.
“These programs, while independent of the archdiocese, are at risk if parishes and schools are burdened with excessive debt in order to pay the claims against the archdiocese,” the lawyer wrote.
Le Chevallier argued in favor of legal reform. “Case law in Oregon has created almost an unlimited liability for sex-abuse claims. Statutes of limitations have been extended for claims that are up to 50 years old,” he said. “The effect of these laws is wreaking serious havoc on our charitable institutions.
“Legal reform is needed to protect both children from sex abuse and the charities and social service agencies of our state that work primarily with children,” he stated.