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Bankrupt Catholic Order Pays Natives $166 Million for Decades of Abuse

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Between the 1940s and the 1990s, children at boarding schools ranging from remote Alaskan villages to those on northwestern tribal lands faced sexual, physical or psychological abuse from Jesuit missionaries, reported Reuters.

On March 25, the approximately 524 victims in the five-state area, most of them American Indians and Alaska Natives, received some justice in the form of $166.1 million--the third largest settlement in the Roman Catholic Church's sexual-abuse saga and the largest ever by a single Catholic religious order, reported the Daily Mail. Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million, reported The Seattle Times. The Jesuit order ran schools in villages and on reservations throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

The payout by the bankrupt order of priests called the Northwest Jesuits, formerly known as the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, is part of the church's efforts to resolve its bankruptcy case. The Jesuits applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2009 due to increased litigation from sexual abuse claims, reported Reuters.

Along with monetary reparations, the order will no longer refer to the victims as "alleged victims," and it will write formal apologies to them. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops emphasized its firm commitment to permanently remove "from public ministry any priest who committed such an intolerable offense," reported the Catholic News Service.

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"It's a day of reckoning and justice," said Clarita Vargas, 51, of Tacoma, Washington, reported The Seattle Times. Vargas suffered abuse as a student at St. Mary's Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, beginning when she was 6 or 7, she told the Daily Mail. "My spirit was wounded, and this makes it feel better," Vargas told the Daily Mail.

"No amount of money can bring back a lost childhood, a destroyed culture or a shattered faith," lawyer Blaine Tamaki, representing about 90 victims in the settlement, said in a statement, reported Reuters. "This settlement recognizes that the Jesuits betrayed the trust of hundreds of young children in their care. These religious figures should have been responsible for protecting children, but instead raped and molested them."