6 Jun 2011

Nuns among worst perpetrators of horrific violence and sex abuse in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations

The Missoulian  -    Montana    June 5, 2011

Anguish has never healed for Natives physically, sexually abused at St. Ignatius mission

By GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian

Part One

ST. IGNATIUS - The small brick mission is a jewel, stunning in its setting at the foot of the Mission Mountains.

"I want to be here," says Garry "Bob" Salois, "the day an earthquake brings this place down."

Its 58 striking frescoes, painted by an Italian Jesuit who was self-taught, include a life-size image of St. George slaying a dragon with a hideous human face.

"The dragon's face," says Francis "Franny" Burke, "should be Mother Loyola."

The church has been a focal point of religious life in the Mission Valley since the 1830s, when the local Salish tribe sent repeated delegations to St. Louis, asking that the Jesuit "black robes" establish a mission here.

"People hate us belittling our town and our church," says Leland "Jimi" Hewankorn, "but they don't know what hell we went through."

Salois, Burke and Hewankorn are among some 500 people - nearly all of them Native American or Alaskan Native - who prevailed in a $166.1 million bankruptcy reorganization against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, better known as Jesuits.

Claimants reported abuse either by Jesuit priests or nuns under Jesuit supervision, starting in the 1950s at boarding schools and parishes on remote reservations and tiny, far-flung villages around the Northwest and Alaska. The Oregon Province covers Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

The settlement, announced in March, is the largest against a Catholic religious order and one of the biggest involving abuse by Catholic clergy.

For the past several weeks, claims adjudicators have been verifying accusations. Last week, ballots went out to claimants, who have until June 30 to approve the reorganization plan.

In August or September, those victims - many of them approaching old age - should start receiving large cash settlements for the anguish inflicted upon them as children.

A half-century after the abuse began, Salois, Hewankorn and Burke say that anguish lingers.

"For over 50 years, those guys have messed up my head, the way that I think," said Salois. "It's like they stole my whole damn life."


The three men, now in their late 50s, said they still avoid the St. Ignatius mission church.

But recently they returned to tell their story, lingering uncomfortably outside before going in, pointing out where the dormitory and other mission buildings, now long gone, once stood.

"The only thing left is the church," said Burke.

"And," added Salois, "the bad memories."

They never wanted to go to the school. They didn't have a choice.

"My mom said they threatened to put her in jail if they didn't send me," Burke said.

They arrived speaking little English. They learned some words fast.



"Dumb Indians."

And to Salois, who is Salish-Cree and French - "a little, redheaded, chubby, good-looking half-breed," he described himself - "You aren't even a real Indian. You look like a white guy."

This, they said, from a woman who supposedly was "civilizing" them.

Mother Loyola was the Ursuline nun in charge of the boys' section of the boarding school.

"A big woman," Hewankorn recalled.

"German," said Burke. Salois' older brother, also at the school, theorized that she was a Nazi war criminal hiding within a nun's habit.

"We thought she was a man," Burke said. "We used to peek through the keyhole to see."

Later, said Salois, "we found out she wasn't. The hard way."


Most of the sexual abuse cases against the Catholic church involve priests.

Of nearly 3,500 accused Catholic religious leaders whose names have been released, only 82 - about 2 percent - are nuns, according to Bishop Accountability, a group that tracks church sexual abuse cases.

An extensive study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released last month, focuses solely on priests. (One of its conclusions, tying the incidence of abuse to more permissive social mores of the 1960s, has been widely criticized.)

"People don't believe females are capable of abusing, and they surely don't think these good nuns would abuse," said Steve Theisen, director of the Iowa chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. As the group's name indicates, abuse by nuns is so little recognized that there's not even a support group for its victims - who include Theisen.

"It's really one of the last taboos to try to break," he said.

In the Northwest Jesuits case, the Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala law firm of Seattle crunched numbers of the accused and the allegations against them, and came up with a list of the Top 10 worst offenders.

St. Ignatius' Mother Loyola is No. 7 on a list that includes Father Augustine J. "Freddy" Feretti and Brother Rene "Charlie" Gallant, both of whom also served at the St. Ignatius mission.

"The focus has certainly been the priests, but the nuns play a real interesting role. ... We see a lot of complicity by the nuns in the priest abuse," said attorney Michael Pfau.

Sister Francis Xavier, the archivist at the Ursuline Centre in Great Falls, knew Mother Loyola personally and remembers her reputation as a "rather severe disciplinarian." But she dismissed as rumor the possibility that Mother Loyola strayed into sexual abuse. "She may have - we used to call it spanking. But fondling is something I find hard to believe," she said.

That's a common reaction to accusations of abuse by women, said Bryan Smith, an attorney with Tamaki Law in Yakima, Wash., which represents about 90 of the people in the Northwest Jesuit case. The Tamaki clients, who include Salois, Hewankorn and Burke, make up the largest group of those in the lower 48 states.

"It was shocking for me to hear" the allegations about Mother Loyola, said Smith, who took depositions from many of the claimants.

"It wasn't until I heard multiple accounts that were remarkably similar from people who didn't know each other that I started to realize, ‘This is real stuff that was happening.' "


The accounts were similar and so were the victims, at least during the late 1950s and early 1960s in St. Ignatius.

"I think they looked everybody over and picked on the ones that didn't talk English," Burke said. "The ones who came from traditional families," added Salois.

The three fit the bill. Burke and Hewankorn spoke mostly Kootenai, Salois a mixture of Salish and Cree. Besides, they were boarding students. Unlike the "day scholars" who went back to their families at night, the boys were far from their homes on the reservation's northern border. (The boarding program closed in 1962.)

Their heads were shaved. Verbal abuse escalated to physical, meted out for supposed infractions - say, speaking their own language.

"We'd have to pull down our pants to our ankles and get hit with a 2-by-4," said Hewankorn. "And also hold out our hands, palms up, and get hit with a 2-by-4. I always wondered how they could be so mean."

Strict regimens forbade little kids from getting up in the middle of the night. If a boy wet his bed, said Salois, he would be forced to stand with the soaked sheets draped over him until they dried, then wash the sheets and stand again, ghostlike beneath them, until the clean sheets dried.

Separately, they ran away. When he was in second grade, Hewankorn made it to Elmo, more than 40 miles away, before police brought him back. Burke got as far as a barn, visible from the dorm, and realized he'd never make it home to Elmo. He sneaked back, but was found out, and his head shaven anew as punishment. Salois ran repeatedly. "I was always bald," he said.

Physical abuse turned sexual.

When the Rev. Joseph Balfe asked Burke to assist him with Mass, Burke went to the sacristy, only to be confronted with Balfe standing naked. During confession, Balfe asked Hewankorn what bed he slept in.

"They looked at us like we were animals. Like we were their playthings," said Burke.

They quickly learned to hide when Mother Loyola came around, looking for a boy to help a priest with "chores."

But at night, when she came into the dormitory, there was nowhere to go, they said.

"I'd see Mother Loyola go to different beds," Hewankorn said.

"She'd put her hand over your mouth," said Salois. "Grab you by the ear and take you back to her room" for sex.

Another nun, elderly, would coax boys onto her lap and force their heads to her bared chest.

"Sister John was a pervert, but she was senile," Salois said. "She tried to breast-feed you and say, ‘My poor baby.' But at least you'd get a hug and not get hurt."

They tried to tell, they said. As youngsters, they wrote a letter to the bishop in Helena, and even to the Pope.

"We complained about how we were being treated. ... We said, ‘Come and save us,' " Burke said.

"I guess that letter never made it."


The settlement could bring as much as a half-million dollars to some victims, depending upon the length and severity of the abuse.

So what, said Hewankorn. "All that money, they could give it all to me and it still wouldn't be enough for the abuse that I went through."

Money won't make up for his shattered life, his three marriages, he said. "I can't hold onto relationships," he said. He is immersed in "shame, shame."

Salois tried three times to kill himself, once before he was a teenager.

"I turned violent, into a drug addict and an alcoholic," said Salois, who has "L-O-V-E" tattooed on the four fingers of one hand and "H-A-T-E" on the other.

He said he got into the habit, for a while, of going into Catholic churches and waiting until Mass was over before confronting the priest.

"I'd yell at him, cuff him a couple of times. Ask them why they did it."

Burke likewise drank and drugged through years of his life. He said he's been sober 10 years now. He's only recently begun to discuss his childhood with his grown children. "They saw me cry," he said.

But until last month, the only times he'd been inside the St. Ignatius church since third grade involved mandatory events like wakes or funerals.

"My knees are shaking," he said. "It's really hard. You know, this is supposed to be a good place."

He paced past the murals, barely looking at them. He, like the others, turned his back on Catholicism as a little boy, and never looked back. None of his eight children is baptized.

"I feel like I'm lost," he said. "I don't know my heritage. I can't speak English very good, and I can't speak my own language."

Salois also refused to baptize his children and won't allow his grandchildren to be baptized. "It took me 40 years to separate the Catholic religion and belief in God," said Salois, who despite his palpable anger took off his cap when he entered St. Ignatius church. "I believe there's got to be a creator of all things. But if Jesus Christ and his bunch are a true religion, he's forsaken me a long time ago."

Hewankorn has worked to reclaim his tribal heritage, turning to traditional ways.

"I don't go to church no more," he said. "I confess to Him only. I don't confess to a human being."

The men said they're waiting for something more valuable than money.

"I got over being angry," Burke said. "But I want an apology. Not for myself, but the whole Indian race."

Salois hopes the Rev. Patrick Lee, the leader of the Oregon Province, comes to St. Ignatius to apologize in person - although at the thought, his anger flashed anew.

"I'd tell him, I don't accept your apologies. It's too damn late," he said. But a moment later, he added, "I'd go and see what kind of apology he gives. If it's a real one, I'll accept it. But if it's one of their old phonies, I'll spit in his face and go away."

And Hewankorn wants to ask the old, unanswerable question.

"Why? Why did you do that to us?"

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio @missoulian.com or CopsAndCourts.com.

This article was found at:


The Missoulian  -    Montana    June 5, 2011

Silence shrouds St. Ignatius Jesuit abuse case as settlement vote nears

By GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian

Editor's note: Today, the Missoulian concludes a two-day look at the legacy of abuse at the Jesuit-run school and mission on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

ST. IGNATIUS - The recent $166.1 million settlement for people who were sexually abused in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations and Alaskan villages made international headlines.

But here, where so much of the abuse occurred, the silence surrounding the case is as cold and deep as the stubbornly lingering snow on the Mission Mountains.

That's partly a measure of time: The settlement plan covers a half-century of abuse. What's news to the larger world is business as depressingly usual to people who've been living with the effects of that abuse for decades, said Jera Stewart, clinical supervisor and neuropsychologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

It's partly a measure of legality: The 500 claimants involved in the settlement must vote to approve it and the votes won't be tallied until July. Until then, said the Rev. Andrew Maddock of the St. Ignatius Church, he can't address the issue specifically with parishioners. "I've just talked about (the fact) that we need to heal."

And it's partly an unfathomable measure of pain: "You're talking about layers of trauma that happened over generations," said Salish educator Julie Cajune.

Genocide. Dislocation. Cultural obliteration. Children kidnapped into boarding schools. And, as is now being widely revealed, the extensive sexual abuse of those children.

"That this kind of violence happened to children, the worst kind of violence ... ," Cajune said. "It's such a horrific thing that people don't want to talk about it."


The bankruptcy settlement against the Northwest Jesuits will - if approved - do everything possible to make sure that the 500-some claimants can get help for many years hence without having to talk publicly about it, even as the religious order takes public responsibility.

About $6.5 million of the $166.1 million paid by the Jesuits and their insurers would be set aside to fund future claims, as people continue to come forward about sexual assaults experienced decades ago, said Bryan Smith, an attorney with Tamaki Law, the Yakima, Wash., firm that represents the largest number of claimants in the Lower 48 states in the Northwest Jesuits case. That money would be available until it ran out.

Still, payments averaging about $300,000 could go to those whose claims already have been verified by adjudicators after the settlement was announced in late March, Smith said. Nearly all of the claimants are Native American or Alaskan Native.

"That significant sum of money is paid to acknowledge wrongdoing," said Blaine Tamaki. "They are apologizing for their abuse."

Francis "Franny" Burke, 58, of Elmo, is one of the people represented by Tamaki's firm.

"Speaking for all the Indian people involved with these priests, we would like an apology. That would be nice," said Burke. "But something that could really help the Indian people out is to help restore the culture and language."

As in other boarding schools around Indian Country, the last of which closed in 1968, students in the St. Ignatius school had their hair shorn and were punished if they spoke their own languages or practiced their traditions. The result was generations who feel, as Burke said, lost in an uneasy world between the two cultures.

The settlement doesn't address that issue. Perhaps it never could. But it does include several provisions designed to provide the accountability and apology many victims say they badly want.

Among them:

• For the next decade, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Northwest Jesuits, must post on its website's home page the names of all its members verified as perpetrators.

• For the next two years, the website must provide a place for victims who want to tell their stories.

• The Rev. Patrick J. Lee, who heads the province, will send personally signed letters of apology to all the claimants, stating that the abuse wasn't their fault, and that the province takes responsibility.

• During the next five years, Lee will travel to Anchorage, Seattle, Spokane and other places for private conferences with people who were abused.

• The Northwest Jesuits cannot refer to those who were abused as "alleged" claimants, victims or survivors.

• And, Lee will post on the website, and place ads in regional publications including the Missoulian, "a statement of gratitude for the survivors of sexual abuse who have had the courage to speak about the sexual abuse they endured and continue to live with every day."


Along with "alleged," Cajune would prefer to get rid of the word "victims," too.

"I think it's important to see Indian people as actors and not victims," she said.

Take those who endured the abuse by Jesuit priests, as well as nuns who worked under their supervision, in Jesuit missions and schools on Indian reservations around the Northwest and in Alaskan Native villages. The Oregon Province covers Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

"It's a very brave and courageous act of resistance for these people to come out and do this," Cajune said. "It's not going to be popular."

In addition to the general squeamishness regarding public discussion of sexual abuse, there's the fact that the St. Ignatius mission - home to some of the most egregious abusers - is also a revered institution for many in the community, said Stewart, who works for the tribal health program in St. Ignatius.

"The church is still a force that people use," said Stewart. After all, she said, only a few people among the mission's religious leaders were abusers.

Most, she said, "are healers. People go there all the time for confession and absolution and to get some help."

Indeed, Josephine Paul Quequesah, who is 74, said that while revelations about abuse at the boarding school her older sister attended surprised and saddened her, she remains a devout Catholic and volunteers at the church as a Eucharistic minister.

"All my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren are baptized," said Quequesah, a member of the Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee, whose offices are near the church.

"I don't think they need to do it," she said of the lawsuits.

Leland "Jimi" Hewankorn, 59, said he heard similar remarks from friends and family members critical of his decision to join the legal action against the Northwest Jesuits.

And he knows people who also were abused, but who have kept silent.

"I'm speaking for a lot of people who are afraid to speak out," Hewankorn said.


The Northwest Jesuits' website - not its home page, but in the "contact" section - provides a confidential number for people to report sexual abuse by a Jesuit, or get information on counseling if they've suffered abuse.

In St. Ignatius, Stewart said that Tribal Health offers counseling to both people who have been abused and to abusers, although no program specifically addresses those involved in the Jesuit case. Publicity about that case can be helpful for people who've suffered in silence for years, believing themselves alone in their experience, she said.

"Even if they're not speaking out, they can experience healing vicariously," she said.

Dixie Trahan Brabender of Ronan, one of the first to publicly come forward in the case against the Northwest Jesuits, wanted to provide a safe place for such people.

The 56-year-old Ronan resident, who is not a trained counselor, started a support group in her home for other abuse survivors. But it fell apart after just a few meetings, she said.

"It's still hard to talk about it," she said. "They stole something from us. They stole our innocence from us."

She said she'd revive the group if people wanted.

And groups like SNAP - Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests - also offer support.

For all the considerable resources, financial and emotional, provided by the settlement, it lacks the one thing some survivors wish they'd seen: personal accountability by the priests and nuns who abused them.

But criminal charges in such cases are nearly impossible, said Smith of Tamaki Law, both because the statute of limitations has passed in many cases, and because most of the perpetrators have died.

For instance, the Rev. Augustine J. "Father Freddy" Feretti, named by victims in St. Ignatius and Idaho, died in 1982. Mother Loyola, an Ursuline nun who was a prefect at the boarding school in St. Ignatius, went from there to a mission in the Yukon before returning to the Ursuline Centre in Great Falls, where she died, said Sister Francis Xavier, the center's archivist. Both of Mother Loyola's legs were amputated before her death, said Sister Francis, who knew Mother Loyola.

"She had a very, very hard death, "she said. "She suffered a lot."

Cajune said that in Lame Deer, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southern Montana, elders speak of the people who survived the genocide as heroic. She suggested the same term might be applied to those taking the Jesuits to task about their abuse.

It won't undo the damage.

Most of the abusers got away.

And there will always be naysayers.

But the Northwest Jesuits can't act as though it never happened, because those who suffered fought back.

Now the world knows what was done to them.

"We stood up to some powerful people," Franny Burke said, "and I feel good about that."

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or CopsAndCourts.com.

This article was found at:



$50 million for Alaskan abuse plaintiffs

Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations

Canadian Indian residential school hearings identify thousands of abusers including some students who were also abused

Survivors of Indian residential schools need to tell their stories to restore self-worth after trauma of abuse

A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

Canadian Truth Commission investigates fate of thousands of aboriginal children who died in mysterious circumstances

Canadian residential school Truth Commission begins to address over a century of child abuse, thousands of children still missing

‘Apology? What apology?' Church’s attempt at reconciliation not enough, says counsellor

Church-run Canadian residential schools denied human rights to all aboriginal children in their custody

'This Is How They Tortured Me' [book review]

Mothers of a Native Hell

Fugitive priest hiding in Belgium and Lourdes, France sent back to Canadian territory Nunavut to face sex abuse charges

Canadian priest convicted of pedophilia, wanted by Interpol for 15 years, surrenders in Belgium but authorities let him go

Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?

Edmonton mural celebrates Catholic bishop's role in the horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools

Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"


  1. Dark times with nuns of Mother Teresa: a memoir

    National Post - Charles Lewis

    There’s an episode in Mary Johnson’s An Unquenchable Thirst that seems to epitomize the painful years she spent in Mother Teresa’s religious order.

    It is just one of dozens of uncomfortable moments the former nun recalls as a member of the Roman Catholic Missionaries of Charity, but it exemplifies the degree to which she saw life around her as one of repression, repercussions and guilt — the things that drove her out of the order in 1997.

    At one of the order’s homes in Rome, a supervisor, Sister Dolorosa, began shouting in her sleep, “I need a man! I need a man!”

    The sister was faithful to her vows, but the evidence of her subconscious desire sent shock waves through the other nuns.

    Sister Dolorosa’s words “reverberated in my brain, my gut, my bones,” Ms. Johnson writes.

    One sister said, “It’s only normal. We are all human.”

    “But she’s our mistress,” said another. “We’re supposed to learn from her.”

    When Sister Dolorosa found out what she had said, she hid in shame from the others.

    Ms. Johnson, who was in Toronto this week to promote An Unquenchable Thirst, said no one reading her book should think life in the Missionaries of Charity was typical of that in other women’s religious orders.

    Other orders, she said, allow their members to have some semblance of a normal life: to engage with friends outside; to keep up with current events; and to stay in close contact with their families.

    “We weren’t even allowed to be friends with each other,” she said. “All our contacts were cut off.”

    Still, reading it is hard to fathom why anyone who would have lasted 20 years. But Ms. Johnson explained the conviction you have been called by God to do something is far stronger than anything that could be imagined in a secular pursuit.

    “We’d always been told you are here because God has called you, so the worst thing you could do is leave.”

    During her time with the sisters she broke her vows with chastity with another nun and later with a priest. She believes now if the order allowed more humane relationships she would never have broken her vows.

    “I think if I hadn’t been that lonely it would have been a whole lot easier to keep my vows. I’m not making excuses. I know I violated my vows and that was something very complicated for me and that I felt guilty about for a very long time. But at the same time I found myself unable to resist having a relationship.”

    The book tells of superiors who became drunk with power, whose normal mode of communication was to shout and invent irrational accusations against those below them.

    Because arguing back was considered a sin against humility, even the most irrational charges could not be countered properly for fear of appearing to be proud or arrogant. Self-flagellation with a rope or a chain was used as a means to conquer pride.

    “As I lived it out, I realized that sort of radical draw also brought these drawbacks where people didn’t have any way of pursuing any form of pleasure or relaxation,” she said.

    “The food was bad, living conditions were difficult, and we didn’t mind that, because we had signed up for that. But what happens is some of the people get their only pleasure in the exercise of power. And this part of what happened in the Missionaries of Charity.”

    read full article at:


  2. Actual words of American Indian boarding school founder, students brought to life in play

    Retired College of St. Scholastica American Indian Studies instructor Carl Gawboy has written a play about the American Indian boarding school experience.

    by: Budgeteer News Staff, Duluth Budgeteer News February 17, 2012

    Retired College of St. Scholastica American Indian Studies instructor Carl Gawboy has written a play about the American Indian boarding school experience. It is based on his graduate study of the historical records of boarding schools for American Indians from the 1880s to the 1940s.

    Called “The Great Hurt: Historical Accounts of American Indian Boarding Schools” the play has been performed at tribal and community colleges, theaters and the National Indian Child Welfare Conference. A frequent comment from audience members is, “I didn’t know that anything like that happened in America.”

    The Twin Ports premier performance of the play took place in January at the College of St. Scholastica. An estimated 450 to 500 people attended the event.

    Gawboy produced a dramatic reading from his research materials in order to bring the play to a wider audience. The readers’ theatre script comes from actual testimonies by Indians and staff of the boarding schools.

    After writing the script for the play in 1972, Gawboy could not find anyone interested in helping to produce it. “The Great Hurt” sat in his desk drawer until he was asked recently if he had any material on the historical trauma that American Indians suffered in boarding schools. Audiences are now ready for his play.

    Tad Johnson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bois Forte Band, is head of the American Indian Studies Department at UMD. He saw the performance. He said, “I thought it was very moving and very powerful. It used actual words of Capt. Pratt, who founded Carlisle School, and the children. It was very stirring.” He said the use of actual photos “had a big impact on me and a lot of the people in the audience.” Johnson’s maternal grandparents attended boarding schools. “People lost parenting skills and lost their language,” he said. “I knew all that, but hearing the actual words was moving.”

    The play is scheduled to be shown at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on March 9.


  3. Native American Leader Dennis Banks on the Overlooked Tragedy of Nation’s Indian Boarding Schools

    Democracy Now, October 8, 2012


    AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Durango, Colorado, at Fort Lewis College, which graduates more Native Americans than any four-year college in the United States. I’m Amy Goodman. But we’re going now to New York, where Dennis Banks is, the legendary Native American activist from the Ojibwa Tribe. In 1968, he co-founded the American Indian Movement. A year later, he took part in the occupation of Alcatraz Island in California. In 1972, he assisted in AIM’s Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan of numerous activist groups across the United States to Washington, D.C., to call attention to the plight of Native Americans. That same year, AIM took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. In early 1973, the American Indian Movement took over and occupied Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for 71 days. Earlier this year, he led a cross-country walk from Alcatraz to Washington calling for the release of imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who’s been held for 35 years.

    Dennis Banks joins us in New York. This weekend, he served as a jurist in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. We’ll get to that in a moment, but as we broadcast today on the federal holiday known as Columbus Day, that others call Indigenous Peoples Day, Dennis Banks, can you share your experience as a Native American in this country?

    DENNIS BANKS: Well, first of all, I’ve been watching your program this morning, and—with these young people from the college, and I want to say that I feel great that—you know, that the young people are really getting up there and speaking. And it feels like now I—you know, I’m almost 80 years old—I can sit back and retire, you know, and say, "Look, our young people are taking over." And that’s great. That’s what I’d like to see. I’m very impressed with the students you had on there this morning.

    But I was going to say, are we still talking about Columbus Day? You know, it’s been so—what, it’s been four years since I talked to you, Amy. This is, you know, when the Longest Walk 2 arrived in Washington, D.C. And now we’re talking about—we should be talking more—I don’t want to talk about Columbus, but I will talk about this day. In South Dakota, which I thought would be the last one to adopt a day like this as a Native American day, but they have moved forward, and they’ve proclaimed this day as Native American Day. And it is a day for observation, celebration and, you know, looking at the contributions that native people have made, not only in South Dakota, but in Minnesota and all around Indian country. And that’s what this day should be about.

    continued in next comment...

  4. continued from previous comment...

    And I don’t want to reflect about, you know, the lost explorer. You know, they’ve got towns named after him, like Custer, South Dakota, is named after Custer, a man who was, you know, bent on killing native people. But people honor those kind of renegades and those kind of rogues. So, I want to look at the more positive things, and that’s—and it’s good. I’m glad that you’re carrying this day, though—I really am—and being at Fort Lewis. I’ve spoke there previously two or three times.

    AMY GOODMAN: Dennis Banks, for people who are not familiar with these boarding schools that Native Americans were put into over the years, can you describe what your experience was? Where did you live? Where were you sent? What happened to you in these schools growing up?

    DENNIS BANKS: I was in the boarding schools when punishment was very severe if you ran away. This was during the early ’40s. I was taken to a boarding school when I was four years old, and taken away from my mother and my father, my grandparents, who I stayed with most of the time, and just abruptly taken away and then put into the boarding school, 300 miles away from our home. And, you know, the beatings began immediately, the—almost the de-Indianizing program. It was a terrible experience that the American government was experimenting with. And that was trying to destroy the culture and the person, destroy the Indian-ness in him and save the human being, save the—kill an Indian, save the man. That was, you know, the description of what this policy is about, about trying to—

    AMY GOODMAN: Now, the government ran the schools?

    DENNIS BANKS: The U.S. government paid—of course, they ran a lot of the schools themselves, but they also delegated a lot of it to the Christians, Christian communities. The Catholics had some. The Episcopalians had some. The Lutherans had some. Methodists had some. And so, it was like a complicit—there was complicity between the churches and the state in taking care of Indian problem, solving the Indian problem, and trying to change who we were.

    AMY GOODMAN: Dennis, where had—where had you lived? Where had you lived, and where were you brought to school?

    DENNIS BANKS: I lived on the federal—or, on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, where I was born, in northern Minnesota. And I was taken to a boarding school 300 miles away to the south, southernmost part of Minnesota, the southwestern part, called Pipestone Indian School. I stayed there three years—six years—

    AMY GOODMAN: And how—

    DENNIS BANKS: Go ahead.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did you communicate with your family? And how often did you get to see them? Did you get to talk to them?

    DENNIS BANKS: Never. Never. You know, they cut off all communication with your parents, and a lot of letters, which I found later in—I stayed there for six years without communicating to—with my parents at all. And finally, they let us go home for six years. Of course, we couldn’t speak the language. We could speak only English and—what these young people were talking about.

    But there was severe punishment for running away from that kind of system. I ran away. I kept running away. Almost once a week, I’d run away from those schools. They’d catch me. They’d bring me back to the school, beat me. And it was—it was terrible. I mean, there was other kinds of punishment that we went through, as well. And it was—now that, it was a—that kind of experience, I still remember what it is like today. And I have a friend who has been—who had been my friend for over 70 years now, and we remember those days. There were—we stuck together. A lot of people stuck together. Just being together, that’s what saved a lot of us from terrible consequences of speaking. But eventually, they—you know, they kept beating me down, and I kept—so I started learning English, and I started learning who the presidents were. I started learning all that stuff.

    continued in next comment...

  5. continued from previous comment...

    And then they let me go home for 30 days. Six years. And I asked my mother, I said, "Why didn’t you write to me?" And she—you know, and she says, "I did." But I never—I never questioned beyond that. And then there was—they sent me to another boarding school in North Dakota, another 200 miles away. I was there for three years. And then, after that, same thing: no—only English, you know, corporal punishment. And then I went home for another 30 days, asked my mother, "Why is it you didn’t write to me again?" She says, "I did, and I did." Then they sent me to another boarding school in South Dakota further away, so another 400 miles. I kept running away from these schools. And I finally ran away from the last one, and I finally made it home.

    And so, I wanted to say, Amy, that this not only happened to people in North Dakota and South Dakota and Minnesota, but all across the country, thousands upon thousands of young students, Native students, were taken from their homes, and some were forcibly taken, some because of economic times allowed that to happen, but it was always taking them away from the parent, separate them from the parents for long periods of time, and which they did with me. And all of a sudden, I lost my family relationship with my mother. I lost that feeling with my mother, because I thought she abandoned me.

    And it wasn’t ’til almost just three years ago when my daughter was—they were doing a documentary on Dennis Banks, and they found—they went to—in the federal depository records in Kansas City. And she called me, and she says, "Dad, we found" — "Dad," she said, "we found your—we found your school records." And I said, "Bring them back." So she brought them back, and I started looking at them. And she says, "Dad, we also found something else." She handed me a shoebox. And I opened up the shoebox, and those were letters, letters from my mother. And I started opening them up, and I started reading them. And in the second one, there was a letter to the superintendent of the school that said, "Here is $5. Please send my children—my son back home to me."

    And I couldn’t finish reading these letters, because I was just tearing up and—so I went to the grave site. My mother had passed away. When she did pass away, I went to bury her, but there was no emotions with me. And then, going there this time with the letters—and I was reading the letters. I had a chair; I was sitting right by her grave, and I started reading these letters. And I knew that she loved me then. I mean, even now, even at this moment, I feel that, man, it’s a hard—it’s a hard experience to tell people. But I tell them anyway. I tell what happened, because it was a terrible, terrible experience. But it failed, failed miserably. I mean, but even today, I mean, I know some of the language. I don’t know—I don’t know all the language. I know a lot of songs, which came back to me. But the language, it seems like you start—you want to say something, and then you remember the beatings and stuff like that. And so—but it was terrible.


  6. Nun Abuse Case Goes to Bankruptcy Court

    Survivor Speaks Out

    by Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country February 6, 2015

    Suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse. A plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Helena (Montana) and the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province ticked off the long-term effects of the sexual, physical and emotional abuse by nuns and priests that he and other plaintiffs suffered as children. “The memories keep coming back,” said the plaintiff, who asked to be referred to as John Doe. “It’s daily. You withdraw.” The problems have devastated individuals and entire communities, he said.

    A proposed settlement in the lawsuit has just been accepted by all sides. The 362 plaintiffs are mostly Native Americans, who were abused from the 1930s through the 1970s. The defendants are the Diocese, which oversaw western Montana and will pay the plaintiffs copy5 million via bankruptcy reorganization and insurance proceeds, and the Ursulines, who ran a boarding and day school in St. Ignatius, Montana, where much of the abuse took place. The Ursulines will pay $4.45 million, largely from sale of assets, according to Tamaki Law Offices, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs.

    Court documents say nuns, priests and lay employees also raped, sodomized, fondled and beat children at other western Montana schools and parishes. The Ursulines ran their school with the help of Jesuits, who are also named as abusers.

    The situation is remarkable for the accusations against nuns. Court documents point to the Ursulines’ Mother Loyola, Mother Cecelia, Sister John and more as serial abusers. Horrific descriptions of their actions were reported by ICTMN in 2011, when the suit was filed. “Abuse by nuns is not as rare as you would think, unfortunately,” said Tamaki Law attorney Bryan Smith. He called it “rampant” at St. Ignatius.

    Several factors make nun abuse hard for victims to bring forward, Blaine Tamaki has told ICTMN. These include the belief that nuns are less sexually active than priests and the feeling that abuse of boys by women isn’t that serious, which Tamaki called a “double standard.” (Tamaki Law was also part of obtaining a copy68 million settlement from the Jesuits on behalf on Native people in the Northwest and Alaska.)

    Next, the proposed settlement goes to U.S. Bankruptcy Court for authorization, presumably on March 4, 2015. “Since we’re all in agreement, we have high hopes it’ll be approved,” said Smith.

    George Leo Thomas, Bishop of Helena, apologized in 2014, writing on the Diocese’s website, “I express my profound sorrow and sincere apologies to anyone who was abused by a priest, a sister or a lay Church worker.” He assured the public that the credibly accused were inactive or dead. The settlement, when finalized, will require that the Diocese publish their names and set up a fund for future claims that meet certain legal requirements.

    The Diocese must also offer counseling to survivors, though they need not accept. John Doe scoffed at the idea. “It’s absurd. So they’re going to get all the rapists and abusers together and put them in charge?”

    Doe said trust was one of the first victims of the assaults. “We lost trust in the priests and nuns. Then, when we tried to tell family members, they didn’t believe us. How could they imagine religious people did such things? So, we lost trust in our families. We victims wander the earth alone, bearing heavy burdens, with no place to put them down.”

    At least, Doe added, after lawsuits like this one, there's less chance of children being abused in the future.


  7. Montana reservations reportedly 'dumping grounds' for predatory priests


    Seaborn Larson, Great Falls Tribune Aug. 16, 2017

    HAYS – For decades, even lifetimes, the Catholic Church refused to turn in priests with known pasts of sexually abusing children, women and men. The story is known in as many corners of the world as the Catholic Church exists, including Montana's two dioceses.

    In the Pacific Northwest, however, the Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order have been accused of using Indian Reservations as their “dumping grounds” for the worst recidivist priests accused of sexually abusing children throughout the 1900s. Here, church officials reportedly determined predatory priests could remain undetected. Here, the church acted as an anchor for the communities, and the victims lived with the abuse in silence.

    Attorney Vito de la Cruz said Montana reservations were no different: They were the church's rural and remote sites for hiding predatory priests. Cruz’s Seattle law firm has represented victims from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, and he said the systematic issue is told from church documents revealed in cases already settled, and the active one against the Great Falls-Billings Diocese.

    "I think the evidence points to that," Cruz told the Tribune. "Those who had problems in respect to abusing kids, it's easy to hide in the reservations; people won't complain much, it's isolated there, and there are massively disproportionate balances of power."

    In the case against the Great Falls-Billings Diocese, a majority of those who have come forward with names and locations were allegedly abused on the remote Indian reservations. Off the reservations, victims who have come forward came largely from the former Catholic orphanage in Great Falls, two parishes in Billings and far flung communities in eastern Montana.

    In many instances, the church has boosted conditions in reservation towns, but with the past practice of splitting Indian children from their parents to boarding schools often operated by the church, the history of Catholicism on the Montana reservations is complicated at best. Fort Belknap Tribal President Mark Azure previously knew about the abuse by priests, but was furious to learn of the church’s designs to continuously funnel bad priests to the reservation during the 1900s, a recently added layer to a complicated history.

    “What the hell is a church if it’s going to allow this to happen?” he asked, then thought of the victims. “For me to hear it is a shock. And for their ability to keep it within themselves for as long as they have leads us to their alcoholism, whatever abuses they were — did they become abusers themselves? This could be the very reason why.”

    "One of the biggest criticisms of the church has been that they would do this kind of shuffling routinely until they reached the rope's end," Cruz said. "It was proved definitively that the dioceses were moving these folks around with no regard to the community... Then we had the reservations where we had people who were probably not the brightest stars in the whole church structure who were sent there."

    Rev. Edmund Robinson worked primarily on reservations during his career of 37 years, 25 of which were spent in Montana, according to Catholic directory records and information collected by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Twenty-one of those years were spent on Indian reservations, primarily the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in northcentral Montana and the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana.

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  8. During his time as a priest on Montana Indian reservations in the 1950s and '60s, Robinson served the St. Paul Mission in Hays as the rural school’s basketball coach, algebra teacher, superintendent and, of all things, an ethics instructor. Some called him “Father Eddy,” others simply called him “Father," but in 2012 Edmund Robinson’s full name appeared on a list of about 13 clergy accused of molesting young Indian boys and girls on the Fort Belknap reservation from 1947 to 1980.

    The church is now in settlement negotiations with victims from its jurisdiction. Robinson’s story helps provide context to the history preceding that case, and illustrates the rampant abuse committed on reservations under the guise of salvation.

    Robinson was born in the Seattle area in 1924 and attended the Blessed Sacrament Grade School. According to obituaries, Robinson came from a deeply Catholic family. His brother, an attorney living in Seattle, was highly active in the church and a leader in the area’s 12-step self-help movement before he died in 2003. Robinson’s nephew also became a priest.

    In his 20s, Robinson began his Jesuit studies in Oregon. He later graduated from Alma College in Los Gatos, California, where he was ordained. Robinson’s first assignment was an assistant pastor at the St. Paul Indian Mission in Hays, where he also was an assistant in the halls, classes and back rooms at the mission school. It would be the first of three stints he would live on the Fort Belknap Reservation, serving churches in Hays, Lodge Pole and Zortman. A profile published on a Jesuit website notes his love for reading was established either in the early days of his Jesuit studies or during the long, cold Montana winters.

    Hays is a small town at the feet of the Little Rockies mountain range, an island of buttes dotting the vast expanse of the eastern Montana plains. Today, blighted homes line a single road winding through the town of about 840. The church, built by stone masons near the eastern edge of town about 80 years ago, is the tallest building in sight.

    The St. Paul Mission School, populated by young Gros Ventre and Assiniboine children, had 53 boys and 48 girls enrolled when Robinson arrived in 1955. A victim included in the lawsuit said Robinson molested her the same year.

    Three years later, Robinson was relocated to Port Townsend, Washington. He spent one year there at a training college for Jesuit priests, and returned to Hays in 1959. A now-adult man alleges in the lawsuit that Robinson raped him in the year he returned to the mission, while a Hays woman said he verbally, physically and sexually abused her in 1960. Robinson was again relocated, this time to the Flathead Indian Reservation 400 miles west in 1962. He is accused of raping a 5-year-old girl there in 1963.

    The Great Falls-Billings Diocese lawsuit currently includes 72 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members. Of those who provided locations and dates of the alleged abuse, 40 said it happened to them on a reservation, and 21 of those say they were abused at the St. Paul mission in Hays.

    Of the 21 alleged victims from St. Paul, eight men and women who have come forward said they were molested by Robinson, and often times several other church officials in the same time frame. Robinson is accused of molesting nine children across the state during his career. There could be more, as there may be other victims of any clergy who chose not to come forward.

    Others accused of repeated abuse at St. Paul include Father Fred Simoneau, whose five victims claim abuse from 1955 to 1974; Brother Ryan, whose alleged abuse spans from 1955 to 1966; and Brother Clarence Moreau, who is accused of sexually molesting four children from 1959 to 1971.

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  9. Only one person has come forward to claim abuse in Wolf Point, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation further northeast. But in southeastern Montana, eleven people have claimed they were sexually abused at the St. Labre Indian Mission on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, while seven have made similar allegations from the St. Xavier Indian Mission on the Crow Indian Reservation.

    Father Emmett Hoffmann is accused of molesting students at the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, but his relationship with the reservation was different than Robinson’s. Hoffmann served Northern Cheyenne reservation all through his career and was highly revered after the suit was filed against the Great Falls-Billings Diocese and after his death less than a year later.

    A book commemorating Hoffmann as a powerful advocate for the Northern Cheyenne also describes his struggles with alcoholism. A Cheyenne family told the Billings Gazette they saw past his problems, though, considering his community support and substantial fundraising, which was instrumental in building a factory, dozens of homes and three churches, according to his obituary. In 1961, Hoffmann was named honorary chief of the Northern Cheyenne Council.

    "Father Emmett's humanitarian achievements on behalf of the Cheyenne stand unequaled in the history of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century American West," his obituary reads.

    But about 50 years after being named honorary chief, five victims who were students at the St. Labre Indian School came forward and accused Hoffmann of molesting them from 1955 to 1984.

    "This is the presence of the priests in the communities," Cruz said. "How do you stack up your chances of complaining of abuse to the same people who are sheltering abusers? How do you go against the community structures when those structures might be influenced by the Catholic Church?"

    In fact, the Catholic Church was here before the reservations were established. Less than 100 years before Robinson arrived, Catholic missionaries first made their way into eastern Montana in their western route to spread the word of salvation. The mission was established in the Fort Belknap area in 1886. The U.S. government established the reservation there two years later.

    Azure said the history of Catholicism on the reservation may deviate as some have passed it down orally from generation to generation, but the prevailing sentiment is that Catholics came to “help” the plains Indians find a religion congruent with the expanding white world.

    “From what I know, they came to help us from ourselves,” Azure said. “I think it was another attempt to, in the church’s view, civilize a race that they viewed as uncivilized.”

    They opened churches, gained membership and eventually sent children to be assimilated at boarding schools where physical and sexual abuse was reported. At a boarding school in South Dakota, Azure’s own father said he was sexually abused by priests who would give children “medicine,” that made them drowsy. Once subdued by the mixture — whether it was cough syrup or whiskey, Azure never knew — priests allegedly brought them to a basement room and sexually abused children like Azure’s father.

    Azure didn’t grow up in the church, and is not religious.

    “It took me probably 50 years before he said anything to me about it,” Azure said. “That’s why I think back in the day, whether it was in the ‘50s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s, we were running away from those places.”

    Robinson intermittently appeared in the St. Paul mission school three times: 1955 to 1958, 1959 to 1962 and 1966 to 1968. He is seen in school yearbooks drawing on the chalkboard in algebra class, and standing with the high school boys’ basketball team with a proud smile. In ethics class, he stands below a cross as he reads from a book at the front of the classroom.

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  10. In the picture, dated 1961, a group of students sit back in their chairs, like a high school class you would see anywhere else. It’s possible — based on the timeline of claims made by victims — that one or two of the students are looking at their rapist. The next year, Robinson was relocated.

    “I heard about this gentlemen, this individual,” Azure said. “There are people out here that remember. Do people know why he got moved out when he did? Not everybody did.”

    The people who had spoken about Robinson to Azure are older than him, and Azure believed it was unlikely anyone would speak of the abuse on the record. It’s unclear if Robinson’s alleged abuse was a shared topic between students at the school. No residents of Hays with memories of Robinson agreed to speak with the Tribune for this story.

    One person who did speak with several victims of predatory priests was Great Falls therapist Colleen Stivers.

    Stivers, who is now retired, told the Tribune her docket of patients included children abused by parents, people dying of AIDS and people who had survived unsuccessful murder attempts. Stivers said she saw people abused by church officials “for decades,” from both on and off the reservation, although sessions with Natives were less frequent due to long driving distances.

    At Stivers’ office, many victims were telling their stories in whole for the first time.

    “When they try to hide the abuse from family, public or church members, they don’t get well,” Stivers said. “They continue to avoid going to church, which is often extremely important for them prior to abuse.

    “They feel let down by God,” Stivers said.

    In her experience, those abused by clergy were not confined to children of broken homes and impoverished status. There were also adults, including single women and even men seeking the priesthood. One of her patients, a 35-year-old man studying to be ordained, was molested by a 35-year-old male priest. But no matter the details of their background, on or off the reservation, it was typically deeply entrenched in church life, making the abuse that much harder to bear.

    Over the course of reporting this story, several people raised the question as to why victims had not spoken out about their abuse earlier. Stivers said victims of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder conceal their experience for several reasons, but most often shame is what holds a victim back from sharing with their families or friends.

    “The oldest patient I ever treated was 70 years old and she had been abused when she was 5,” Stivers said. “She did not seek treatment for 65 years and kept the secret all that time, because of shame.”

    When victims would tell a friend or family member, they sometimes told the victim to not put the church in jeopardy. The priests or nuns would tell the victim no one would believe them anyway, Cruz said.

    “What’s a child who’s eight years old going to do?” Cruz said.

    The details of the abuse were brutal and violent. In limited descriptions found in court documents, victims allege their abuse included “forced fondling of breasts and genitals, anal rape, forced fellatio, digital, penile and anal penetration, vaginal penetration, sexually motivated ‘washing’ and ‘spanking’ and forced masturbation,” by priests, brothers and nuns.

    Molly Howard, a Missoula attorney, has also spoken with dozens of victims, and today represents about 40 of them in the Great Falls-Billings Diocese case. Howard said she’s disturbed by the details that have come to light in the case and what’s more, she’s become intimately aware of how widespread the history of sexual abuse by church officials really is.

    “Montana is just a microcosm in terms of the entire world of the Catholic Church,” Howard said. “We look at Helena and Great Falls… then you read about Ireland and England. It’s happening everywhere.”

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  11. Howard was raised Catholic, which sharpened her surprise when the widespread sexual abuse hit news outlets in the early 2000s. It also fortified her resolve to seek justice for those abused by church officials. Her firm, Datsopoulous, MacDonald and Lind, also represented victims in the Helena Diocese case, and Howard launched her own investigation in speaking with victims group, pouring through documents at Catholic colleges and records from the church itself to trace the whereabouts of accused priests during the years of alleged abuse. She was then able to corroborate this information with the stories told by survivors sitting in her office.

    Howard's footwork paired well with Cruz's legal team, which includes canonical scholars who have traced Catholic doctrines addressing the issue of celibacy and sexual abuse of minors. These acknowledgments extend back hundreds of years, Cruz said.

    What Howard found is essentially contained in the civil suit: predatory priests would either remain in small towns for years without consequence or be shuttled out after an accusation that could lead to the community’s larger understanding of the systematically-enabled abuse.

    When they did depart, church officials entered official designations into the Catholic directory such as “sabbatical leave,” while Howard said oftentimes they would instead be sent to treatment facilities. Priests and brothers in Montana were sent to the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a treatment facility in New Mexico for issues with alcoholism, substance abuse or pedophilia. Another outlet for these predatory priests was Michigan alcohol treatment center known simply as the “Guest House.”

    After spending time at the treatment centers, priests would return to parishes in Montana, but this time in more rural and remote areas than before, but sometimes back to the communities they had just preyed upon, Howard said.

    “I think the idea is that if they moved to a less populated area that they would have less exposure to children,” Howard said. “But I think the priest’s stature in the community is elevated in the smaller town. They come to basketball games and community events and you notice them around, so I think it had the opposite effect.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the Great Falls-Billings Diocese will be the 17th U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy in the face of sexual-abuse allegations. The Diocese of Helena in 2015 listed Robinson’s name as a priest alleged of sexual abuse as part of its non-monetary terms for resolving the civil suit concluded that year. In monetary terms, the Helena Diocese settled for $20 million in the case in which 362 victims claimed sexual abuse by more than 80 church employees, including Robinson.

    The lawsuits have hit several tiers of the Catholic Church. Tamaki Law, Cruz's firm, also helped secure a $166 million settlement fund from the Oregon Province of Jesuits in a case where nearly 500 people alleged sexual abuse by priests, in Oregon, Washington and Alaska, where the church was first accused of using reservations as its dumping sites.

    Many of the priests accused of abuse were shipped to Montana from the Oregon Province of Jesuits, which had histories of predatory habits on record. Cruz said the Jesuits would have been responsible for dumping their recidivist priests, like Robinson, back into Montana time and time again. The Great Falls-Billings Diocese would have been responsible for shuffling them around and sending them to treatment centers.

    The Great Falls-Billings Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late March, setting the process in motion to begin funding a settlement for victims of abuse by clergy. On the same day, Bishop Michael Warfel offered his apology to "anyone who was abused by a priest, a sister or a lay Church worker" and said those who had been "credibly accused" were no longer alive or active in the church.
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  12. Great Falls-Billings Diocese attorney Greg Hatley said the church is not legally admitting officials facilitated the abuse by settling with victims. He said by approaching each claim with intent to help the healing process, the church is taking responsibility and avoiding lengthy litigation.

    "It's acknowledgment by the diocese that certainly there are victims of sexual abuse that need to be addressed," Hatley said. "The bishop is coming forward, has chosen this pastoral approach to focus on these individuals who otherwise would have been exposed to decades of litigation with a number of outcomes. We didn't think that was fair to them or the diocese."

    Attorneys representing victims have all noted Warfel’s compassion for the victims during the court process. Warfel said he, like anyone else who wasn't a victim, can't fully understand their afflictions. It's difficult to even quantify the pain and collateral damage, he said.

    "Events take place in peoples' life and sometimes they carry those through 'til the day they die," Warfel said. "The scars are there and they're always there, even after they're healed."

    Through the 1960s, Robinson bounced between reservations in eastern and western Montana, operating under two different dioceses, meanwhile allegedly molesting four different people.

    After another two rounds in and out of the Flathead reservation in the ‘70s, Robinson spent three years at the Sacred Heart parish, another Indian mission on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. After a year in Oregon, Robinson then returned to Montana in 1986, located at the St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Harlem, about three miles from the Fort Belknap reservation.

    In Harlem, population approximately 800, the current congregation averages 15 people. In the church basement, Robinson’s picture hangs along with every priest who’s served the parish. Near Robinson’s picture hangs a portrait of Father Sylvester Penna, another alleged predator.

    “They would trust that person as a teacher, as a priest, a spiritual leader,” Ralph Schneider, parish treasurer and bookkeeper, said. “The priest of a small community has a lot of power.

    “I mean, this is a place of God; there’s an automatic trust.”

    Several people who attended Harlem’s church during Robinson’s two-year tenure there from 1986 to 1988 told the Tribune they did not remember him. One woman, however, did recall Robinson’s kindness.

    Karolee Cronk, 78, said her husband was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease in the years Robinson was a priest in Harlem. Cronk said she didn’t have any other distinct memories of Robinson but a simple gesture he extended to the parishioner’s sick husband.

    “I was sitting in the hospital with my husband, and he just came in and was so caring and kind,” she said. “My husband wasn’t even Catholic. I just appreciated that he cared enough to come, you know, in our time of need.”

    She said the news of the allegations against Robinson and Penna made her “sad.” She never heard about nor suspected either of them as sexual predators.

    “Truly, I never thought anything that would make me suspect there was something wrong,” she said.

    During this time Robinson would not have served the Fort Belknap parishes. He instead traveled to parishes west of Harlem and away from the reservation. No accusations against Robinson have been made from this area.

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  13. Knowing of the abuse Robinson allegedly inflicted, Schneider said he’s not inclined to take Robinson’s portrait down from the wall in the church basement where parishioners sip coffee and catch up.

    “Sad as that is that they did that, that’s more of a historic record of the administrators of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church,” Schneider said.

    Forty-some miles south, Robinson’s portrait does not hang in the St. Paul Mission Church in Hays. Today, the mission is somewhat more distinctive than most: a stained glass window depicts a Native American carrying a baby in a blanket and near the front door, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first American Indian saint, is memorialized in a painting. In the painting, she is standing above Snake Butte Mountain, a prominent landmark on the Fort Belknap reservation. And hanging from either side of the crucifix, banners read the “Our Father” prayer in Gros Ventre, the local tribe’s native language. An anonymous donor sent the banners to the church a few years ago and Kenn Cramer, the parish’s pastoral administrator, had a tribal elder verify the translation.

    He said there is still anger at the Catholic Church for the sexual abuse that was known about but not often talked about. He calls it “righteous anger.”

    Cramer is a former counselor, and sounds like one when he talks about the potentially spiritual wounds left after being sexually abused by a priest.

    “Two of the strongest forces of spirituality is faith, which makes you feel connected to your community, and sexuality, which allows you to feel safety, acceptance, transcendence with your spouse,” he said. “You take these two powerful things and you use those as a weapon: it’s so damaging… I find it hard to find a wound that could be any deeper.”

    Probably because they come from two different studies, Cramer’s understanding of how Catholicism spread through Indian communities differs from Azure’s. The Jesuits, who were venturing out and establishing Catholic missions in Indian Country, were hoping to spread the word of Christ, but later looked to assimilate them to avoid impending genocide by the U.S. government, Cramer said. The Catholics were then the non-dominate denomination in the United States, behind Protestants. The Jesuits petitioned for establishing reservations and Catholicism was established early in the newly formed Indian Country. And it was eventually the Jesuits, he said, echoing Cruz, who chose to relocate the worst of their predatory priests to the reservations.

    Still, Cramer said in his tenure, he has seen a lot of respect for sacredness in and out of the church. He never locks the church doors, and nothing ever goes missing. The priest before him, Father Joseph Retzel, was well liked and grew close to the community in his 21 years there. Retzel was the last of the Jesuits to serve the St. Paul mission, and he left it on good terms, making the church today a safe and stable place for those who need it.

    “People have come to me while they’re drunk or high and they want to pray — and I believe them,” he said. “I think that’s special.”

    Cramer and his family left Hays in mid-July, after about two years at St. Paul. He accepted a teaching job in Phoenix, which begins this fall. He and his wife miss the strong sense of community of a bigger town. It’s ironic, because the perceived lack of community that spurred Cramer back to the city may have been the exact reason Robinson returned again and again.

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  14. In his counseling days in Denver, Cramer actually ran a Catholic psychotherapy clinic and counseled clergy members. He said the most sexually deviant priests in his office were addicted to pornography; none had sexually abused anyone. Perhaps they might have, he said, if church hadn’t begun rigorously trying to address issues early on.

    “Their first response is ‘Let’s get this priest some psychological help or have him talking to someone,’” Cramer said.

    Today, prevention efforts installed on and off the reservations are reviewed on an annual basis and updated every five years, Bishop Warfel said. Since the Charter for the Protection of Children was implemented following a 2002 conference in Dallas, Warfel said the Great-Falls Billings Diocese has passed every audit of the measures now in place. Much of the training and policies, such as not being allowed in a room alone with a child, mirror policies and training implemented in schools or daycares. All church employees, including the bishop, undergoes the training.

    An independent review board made up of active Catholic Church members review church policy after complaints are handled. Warfel believes the board’s connection to the church doesn’t hinder its ability to be independent from the church; while attorneys in the case, including Cruz, believed a board severed from the church would add legitimacy.

    On a global scale, Pope Francis has garnered praise from some, including Cruz, for pushing for more accountability among church ranks. In February, however, the Associated Press reported Francis has quietly trimmed sanctions on some sex abusers from the church at the same time.

    Across the diocese, the bishop has also held healing services for victims of sexual abuse, to coax along the healing process at a community level. Warfel said he has personally spoken with victims, and believes doing so is a way to directly help on an individual level.

    "I think they've been very positive," Warfel said of his meetings with alleged victims. "I think that, in many ways, it's a part of the healing process to be able to share the story with the bishop."

    But in Hays, when Cramer tried to engage in conversation about abuse by priests, it’s pushed off to the side. He said sexual abuse is a present-day issue no one seems to want to talk about, like Azure mentioned. Unlike Azure, though, Cramer had never heard of Robinson, and to him that spoke volumes about Robinson’s remembrance in the Catholic community.

    In 1988, at 64 years old, Robinson left Montana reservations behind and lived in Lewiston, Idaho as a chaplain at the local hospital and served as the assistant pastor to the parish and the Catholic school. In 1993 he moved to the Regis Jesuit Community in Spokane, where several priests retired after an alleged life of abusing children, according to records collected and published online by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

    Robinson died on May 22, 2014 at 90 years old in the Jesuit infirmary at Gonzaga University, according to his obituary. In it, there is no mention of memories, family or his past.

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