NORTH BEND — Three men filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Archdiocese of Portland alleging they were sexually abused as children by a priest in North Bend during the early 1980s.
The lawsuit, filed today in United States District Court for the District of Oregon, alleges that the three victims, who were not identified in the complaint, were each abused by the Rev. Pius Brazauskas who worked at the Holy Redeemer Church in North Bend from the late 1970s until as late as 1990.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that they were sexually abused on multiple occasions between 1978 and 1982, when they were each between five and 12 years old. They allege that the abuse included the priest French kissing the boys, pressing his erect penis against them and groping their genitals.
The plaintiffs are the first known victims to speak publicly about abuse by Brazauskas.
“To our knowledge, our courageous clients are the first victims to publicly acknowledge abuse by this priest. Based on the information available, we know that Fr. Pius Brazauskas had extensive access to children for decades and we strongly suspect that there are other victims who were sexually abused by this priest,” said attorney Peter Janci of Crew Janci LLP, legal counsel for the plaintiffs in today’s lawsuit.
Archdiocese of Portland Communications Director David Renshaw told The World that the Archdiocese needed additional time to study the lawsuit.
"The claim was just received by our office this (Wednesday) morning. We are currently looking into the allegations as we do with any filing against the Archdiocese," Renshaw said.
According to a 1957 Eugene Register-Guard article, Brazauskas was of Lithuanian ancestry and studied fine arts in Europe before World War II. After the outset of the war, Brazauskas came to the United States where he became an assistant pastor at a parish in St. Louis. In approximately 1957, Brazauskas was reassigned to Oregon, where he became the chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene until the early 1970s. In 1972, Brazauskas relocated to North Bend and became actively involved in Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and St. Catherine’s Residence Nursing Home.
News reports from Oregon media acknowledge that Brazauskas was known for having a special rapport with children.
"Children [were] a special delight to this Catholic priest. When he tells them his name is Father Pius, some want to know if he is really their father. He always has candy and bubble gum for the youngsters, and to some he is known only as 'Dr. Bubblegum.'"
“We believe that Fr. Pius was another in a long line of Catholic priests in Oregon who were permitted to continue having access to children despite numerous red flags,” said Stephen Crew, an attorney for the victims.
In 2004, the Archdiocese of Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the nation to file bankruptcy. By the time the bankruptcy proceeding was over in 2007, the Archdiocese had settled over 300 claims and paid out nearly $90 million in claims and attorney fees to close the bankruptcy.
“Sexually abusive Catholic priests devastated the lives and the souls of trusting children who loved their church and trusted their priests. The three men bringing this case are no exception,” said Janci.
Today’s lawsuit against the Archdiocese seeks $9 million in compensatory damages on behalf of the three plaintiffs, as well as $20 million in punitive damages.
Brazauskas died in March of 1990, according to a March 3, 1990, obituary which was published in The World.