The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon knew that a priest had molested teenage boys in the 1970s, but allowed him to continue in ministry, according a lawsuit filed against the diocese on Monday.
In a statement, the archdiocese said it had known of the allegations against Father Joseph Baccellieri for 12 years, and that Baccellieri had immediately been placed on leave for “counseling and intensive therapy” when the allegations surfaced in 1992.
After two years of therapy, the Archdiocese said, Baccellieri was allowed to return to ministry, “on a limited basis, with close supervision,” and received good performance reviews.
But on Monday, the Portland lawyer who filed two $3 million lawsuits on behalf of two men who say they were abused by Baccillieri, said he has little regard for that statement.
“What I don’t have sympathy for is an institution that would cover up their crimes and recycle them and recycle them and put them back into situations where they will have unsupervised access to children,” said attorney David Slader.
Baccellieri served as a priest at St. Mathews parish in Hillsboro in 1995. He also served at Assumption parish from 1996 to 1998, Sacred Heart parish in 1999 and 2000 and St. Agatha’s parish in 2001. He also taught at Portland’s Central Catholic High School for many years.
He retired in July of 2002, when the U.S. Catholic Bishops decided on a “one strike and you’re out,” policy for priests who had admitted to child molestation.
“We believe Father Baccellieri shows that one can deal with serious problems and move beyond the past to become a stronger, better person,” the Archdiocese’s statement read in part. “Father confronted his problems, dealt with them and served productively an additional eight years in closely supervised ministry.”
The news about Baccellieri comes just a day or so after the Archdiocese of Portland told parishioners that it had paid about $53 million to settle priest sex abuse claims dating to 1950.
A letter from Archbishop John Vlazny said 181 people have claimed they were abused by 37 priests from 1950 to 2003.
Archdiocesan spokesman Bud Bunce said that does not include about a dozen cases before 1950 filed this year or about a dozen against the Benedictine order at Mount Angel Abbey in the Willamette Valley.