Havre Daily News
An Alaska law firm on Wednesday filed a lawsuit naming a deceased Hays priest in a case of alleged sexual abuse of a child.
The lawsuit, filed by Anchorage law firm Cooke, Roosa & Valcarce on behalf of an unnamed victim, alleges that the late Bernard McMeel sexually molested the man in Alaska when the man was a child. McMeel served in Alaska before he was reassigned to St. Paul's Mission Church in Hays from 1978 until his death in 1992.
The lawsuit also claims the victim was abused by another Jesuit priest, Andrew Eordogh, now retired and living in Hungary. The suit, filed in state Superior Court in Bethel, Alaska, also names the Fairbanks Diocese of the Catholic Church, and the Oregon and Alaska provinces of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.
The Oregon Province extends from Point Barrow, Alaska, to southern Oregon and from the Pacific Ocean to the eastern plains of Montana.
Officials at the Fairbanks Diocese and the Oregon Province could not be reached today for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that those who supervised McMeel and Eordogh knew the two priests were molesting children and failed to protect young parishioners from their abuse. Furthermore, the lawsuit says, the church and the Jesuits failed to inform authorities and communities of the abuses, and hid the true reasons behind the priests' movement from parish to parish.
According to the suit, McMeel was born in Great Falls in 1921. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1954 and first moved to Alaska in 1955, where he served as the first principal of Monroe Catholic High School in Fairbanks.
He was assigned to Holy Cross, Alaska, from 1964 to 1968, when he left to become the Superior Regular of Alaska Jesuits. He remained in Alaska until 1978, after the Jesuits learned he had molested a child, the lawsuit said. He was sent on sabbatical and then reassigned to St. Paul's Mission on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the victim was attending a Catholic school in Holy Cross when he was abused, first by McMeel and then by Eordogh. The abuse took place on “numerous occasions” from 1967 to 1970, when the victim was between the ages of 4 and 7, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, the victim believes McMeel “handed him off” to Eordogh when McMeel was promoted and left Holy Cross.
Attorney Ken Roosa, in an interview last month, said the victim and others believe there are more people who were abused as children by McMeel and Eordogh.
“They tell me that there are many others in their community that have never said anything,” he said. “Every time we discover a new molester and open the book on him publicly, we get other calls.”
Roosa's firm is working with a California law firm in an attempt to contact other victims. He said the firm has received some calls from Montanans regarding McMeel.
The law firms have been advertising in the Havre Daily News in an attempt to identify other potential victims.