PORTLAND, Oregon— The Archdiocese in Portland, Oregon, will pay a total of nearly $4 million to eight individuals who alleged they were molested by a priest in the 1970s and 1980s on the Oregon coast, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The settlement resolves lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by Father Pius Brazauskas, who died in 1990, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Three men filed a lawsuit in 2018 alleging Brazauskas abused them when they were between 5 and 12, and five more men came forward after the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit marked the first time anyone publicly named Brazauskas as an alleged child abuser, said the men’s attorney, Peter B. Janci. Most of the eight individuals had served as altar boys, Janci said.
Brazauskas was assigned to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in North Bend at the time.
Brazauskas immigrated from Europe to the United States in the 1940s, according to news articles. In Oregon, he worked as a chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene from the 1950s to the early 1970s, when he moved to North Bend, where he began his work at Holy Redeemer and at St. Catherine’s Residence Nursing home.
His obituary in The Oregonian says he retired in 1980 but remained involved at Holy Redeemer and the nursing home until his death in 1990 at 84.
A Eugene Register-Guard article featuring Brazauskas in 1957 said children were a “special delight” to him and that he was known to them as “Dr. Bubblegum” because he always had gum or candy to hand out to them.
Oregon law allowed the men to take civil action last year because they had recognized the trauma that the alleged abuse had caused in their lives within the prior five years.
The settlement was reached after mediation and months of negotiations.
Portland’s archdiocese was the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy in 2004 over sex abuse allegations after settling more than 100 cases. By the time the bankruptcy was complete three years later, the archdiocese had settled over 300 claims and paid out nearly $90 million in claims and attorney fees.
“This is to my knowledge the largest group of victims who’ve come forward in the post-bankruptcy era,” Janci said. “The fact that no public allegations were made until 25 years after he passed shows how difficult it was for these men to overcome the stigma and the fear of coming forward.”
Anna Helton, the lawyer representing the archdiocese who handled the cases, urged a federal judge to accept the settlement, noting the money would come out of a trust set up during the bankruptcy proceeding to handle any future claims, according to court papers.
Helton did not immediately respond to an email form The Associated Press seeking comment.
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