News and Politics

Lawsuit Alleges Abuse at Mt. Angel Abbey in 1970s


PUBLICATION: Woodburn Independent, OR print edition


A Roman Catholic priest is suing Mt. Angel Abbey for more than $1 million for sexual abuse he says occurred in the 1970s.

The priest, identified in the lawsuit as Father X, claims that Father Emmanuel Clark, who is now deceased, hugged him with his pants unzipped and pressed his head to his chest, telling him his heart beat with love for him.

He also had conversations about sex and encouraged him to go to adult book stores. This occurred while Father X was a student at Mt. Angel Preparatory high school, the lawsuit says.

Newport attorney Bill Barton said it was a case of “sustained and ongoing inappropriate sexual behavior.” His client finally came forward after “walking a challenging path,” Barton said.

“As a man of conscience, he came to the conclusion that this was something he felt he had to do, in the name of accountability and for his own healing,” said Barton, who represents Father X, along with Portland attorney Erin Olson.

Barton said Father X is the third person to come forward with complaints against the abbey.

Portland attorney Stephen English, who is representing the abbey, said Father X’s allegations do not appear on the surface to indicate abuse.

“Mt. Angel Abbey absolutely condemns child abuse,” English said. “Having said that, what appears to be complained about … is that 36 years ago this gentlemen, who is now a priest, was hugged through clothing and apparently he’s indicating that’s caused him lifelong problems.

“Obviously, we need to investigate something that does not on its face appear to be sexual abuse.”

According to the legal complaint, Father X entered the prep school as a 14-year-old boy in 1974. After graduation, he went on to Mt. Angel Seminary and became a priest in 1986.

Clark was in charge of providing him with spiritual and moral guidance, the complaint says, and he sought Mt. Angel Abbey staff’s directive to Father X to treat him as Christ’s representative on earth.

After gaining his trust, he used his power to “manipulate, groom and molest” the boy by referring to him by a pet name and engaging in long and inappropriate hugs, among other things.

He encouraged him to go to adult book stores to get an understanding of “the varieties of potential sexual experiences available,” the complaint says.

As a result, it says Father X has suffered physical and emotional pain and dysfunction, shame, depression, eating disorders, sexual orientation confusion and other issues.

“The manipulations, grooming, molestation and breach of trust of Father X is further socially intolerable and was part of a long-standing pattern of sexual exploitation of minors by Roman Catholic priests and seminarians of Mt. Angel Abbey,” the complaint reads.


This article was originally published in the Woodburn Independent. Woodburn, OR. Photo with permission from Pixabay.

Rachel Cavanaugh
Portland, Oregon

Rachel Cavanaugh is a long-time journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. With more than 18 years of experience as a news reporter, writer, photographer, editor, and digital producer, her work has been featured in Men's Journal, MSN, The Hollywood Reporter, Bustle, Digital Trends, Elite Daily, Matador Network, Gear Junkie, and other publications. She's worked as a Digital Producer for Microsoft’s msnNOW, Digital Content Writer on Nike's Global Consumer Services' team, Gear Reviewer for Digital Trends' Outdoors and Sports section, Staff Writer for Bustle's Outdoor and Fitness E-Commerce platform, and Editor-in-Chief of the Goldendale Sentinel, a weekly print newspaper in Washington state. Most recently, she helped conceptualize Columbia Sportswear's Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, building the global retail giant's first ever digital magazine from the ground up. Over a four-year period from 2020 to 2024, she grew the publication into a journalistically-styled content platform that tells emotionally compelling stories about people and places in the outdoors. As editorial manager, Rachel was in charge of all content production from story ideation and planning to research, interviews, and article delivery. In addition to writing higher-level brand stories, she managed a small team of freelance writers. She currently splits her time between Baja, California where she lives in an RV on the beach, and Hood River, Oregon where she spends her free time kiteboarding, snowboarding, and playing with dogs.