| BOSTON SETTLEMENT
– TO FIRST O’MALLEY OFFER (8/8/03)
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By Adam Liptak
THIS year alone, Jeffrey A. Newman, a Massachusetts lawyer, has filed lawsuits on behalf of 38 people who say they were the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a dozen priests in the Archdiocese of Boston. He will soon be filing 29 more. He is, he says, "in the clergy suit business wholesale."
He has learned some hard lessons building that business. In three earlier lawsuits against priests, including two involving John J. Geoghan, his clients agreed to keep quiet about their charges in exchange for settlement money.
"It was a terrible mistake," Mr. Newman said, "and I think people were harmed by it." Mr. Geoghan, a former priest recently convicted of sexually molesting a child, has been accused of abusing more than 130 other people. The secrecy masked the magnitude of the problem, allowed sexual predators to repeat their offenses and frustrated criminal prosecutions of individual priests.
"I feel strongly," Mr. Newman continues, "that I was complicit in not recognizing the significance and extent of the problem. I, among other lawyers, was part of the problem. It was probably one of the poorest decisions I made in my career."
Even now, though, as the wall of secrecy erected by the Roman Catholic Church is beginning to crumble and prosecutions of individual priests like Mr. Geoghan have become more common, the criminal justice system has been wary of taking on the church as an institution.
While the entire accounting firm of Arthur Andersen has been indicted for what must by comparison be considered minor and isolated wrongdoing, the prospect of a broad criminal attack on the institutional church appears remote. There can be little question, though, that if the widespread and widely tolerated sexual abuse coming to light had occurred in a day care center, a school or a scout troop, indictments against institutions would be flying.
Part of the reluctance is grounded in the church's history, mystery and power, and part of it is grounded in the clauses of the First Amendment protecting religious freedom. Even in civil cases, quite a few courts have held the church immune from suit for the negligent hiring and supervision of priests who engage in sexual abuse.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, for instance, rejected a claim that the church negligently supervised a hospital chaplain who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman. The court said that it could not decide the case without interpreting ecclesiastical law and in particular the vow of celibacy. That would, it held, "excessively entangle the court in religious affairs, contrary to the First Amendment."
The majority of courts, though, have taken the opposite view. On March 14, the Florida Supreme Court held that "the First Amendment does not provide a shield behind which a church" may hide when allegations of sexual abuse are made. The very fact, though, that there is vigorous debate over whether the church is simply immune from lawsuits underscores the societal reluctance to employ its criminal laws against the church.
That leaves civil suits by individuals, and they give rise to the secret agreements that often resolve such suits. Criminal proceedings, including trials and plea bargains, are almost always public. In contrast, confidentiality provisions are common in civil settlements and were apparently standard in scores if not hundreds of settlements of abuse claims against priests around the country.
But though the secrecy agreements kept children at risk and prevented the prosecution of ghastly crimes even as statutes of limitations expired, they are almost certainly lawful. The legal system encourages settlements, largely because it lacks the resources to adjudicate every dispute. And settlements are often thought to require secrecy.
The party paying the money fears that news of a large settlement will be blood in the water for more litigation, and, though a settlement is not an admission of liability, secrecy serves to protect the reputation of the accused. In cases involving sexual abuse, the party getting the money may well want secrecy, too.
SOME legal experts say that the usual rationales and incentives cited in support of secret settlements do not fit priest abuse cases well. The victims were generally children, who ought to receive special protection; the abusers were often repeat offenders, who should have been stopped; and criminal prosecution of the priests was made all but impossible given the central importance of the victim's testimony in rape and other sexual abuse cases.
Prof. Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University Law School, says that the arguments made against secret settlements in cases involving widespread harm, called mass torts by lawyers, apply with equal strength in this new setting. "Certain kinds of harm are so serious," he says, "whether it's criminal conduct by priests or exploding kitchen appliances, that we should not let plaintiffs agree to confidentiality."
The courts have not embraced these arguments; they almost always enforce confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements. They are warier still of the argument that secret settlements in some situations can themselves amount to a crime.
They have rejected claims that seeking silence for money amounts to witness tampering, bribery or obstruction of justice, even where money was explicitly paid in exchange for a promise by the victim not to pursue criminal charges.
PAYING for false testimony is a crime, of course, and so is paying a witness not to appear. But paying for silence is generally perfectly legal.
The law is built on fine distinctions, and this is one of them. "No agreement can bind the victim to refuse to cooperate with the authorities," Professor Gillers said. "The victim can only promise not to report the crime."
But while it is true that prosecutors can compel even victims who have signed secrecy agreements to speak, typically by using subpoenas, they will not know to ask in most sexual abuse cases. That means that a promise not to report the crime is tantamount to a foolproof cover-up.
Many questioned just what Michael Jackson was paying for in 1994 when he spent millions to settle a sexual battery lawsuit brought by a young teenager. Though the terms of the settlement were never made public, the youth's lawyer, Lawrence Feldman, insisted at the time that "nobody has bought anybody's silence." In the end, though, prosecutors did not pursue the case when the teenager refused to testify.
William H. J. Hubbard, writing in the University of Chicago Law Review, argues that some civil settlements of rape charges are a form of witness tampering. "Because the rape victim's testimony is central to the success of a rape prosecution," he writes, "pretrial settlement in rape cases can undermine the enforcement of rape law. A guilty defendant can use pretrial settlement to influence the complainant not to cooperate with the prosecution."
William E. Hellerstein, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, is sympathetic as a matter of public policy but doubts that existing case law makes secrecy agreements in even child sexual abuse cases criminal. "I don't think the obstruction of justice statutes were drawn with them in sight," he said. "You would have to stretch it."
Martin F. Murphy, a former prosecutor in Cambridge, Mass., recalls considering about 800 reports of sexual abuse in a typical year. Only about 50 of them, he said, were "prosecutable," meaning that the presentation of the available facts in court was likely to secure a conviction. A case without a cooperative victim was almost never prosecuted.
Mr. Murphy advocates less reliance on victims, who often feel shame or fear bruising trial tactics even when they are not constrained by secrecy agreements. Many states require medical professionals and schools to report all evidence of abuse of children. Mr. Murphy would extend those requirements to the church.
Other reforms are also possible. The church could voluntarily release the victims from their contractual confidentiality obligations. Legislation to make secrecy agreements in sexual abuse cases illegal could be considered. And grand juries could be convened to look into the church's role.
Mr. Newman, for his part, has simply altered his approach to settlement
discussions. "I will not engage," he said, "in even the
loosest discussion of a confidentiality agreement."
By Jack Sullivan and Eric Convey
Dirigo Spice runs its operations from a rented building in Dorchester valued at $1.7 million.
The New England Institute of Acupuncture has its campus on leased Watertown property worth $3.6 million while the Massage Therapy Institute in Cambridge has classes and offices in a $6.7 million complex on Rindge Avenue.
The landlord for all those buildings, one of the largest non- government property owners in Massachusetts, also holds title to more than 40 acres of prime real estate in the middle of a tony development in Hingham that could fetch up to $3 million.
But the entity that owns all of this property - and many hundreds of
millions of dollars more - has cut its operating budget by 40 percent,
backed out of a proposed settlement with the victims of one its employees,
and said it's contemplating bankruptcy.
"This seriously undermines their assertion that they did not have the financial wherewithal to go through with the settlement," said Frederic L. Ellis of Ellis & Rapacki, a civil litigation attorney who is not involved in any suit against the church. "Their credibility is undermined by these findings."
Archdiocese officials from Bernard Cardinal Law on down have said that with the spiraling number of alleged victims coming forward, a proposed $15 million to $30 million settlement deal with those abused by defrocked priest John J. Geoghan that was rejected by the Finance Council would have crippled the church.
"(The Finance Council's) concern was based on the fact that the proposed settlement would consume substantially all of the resources of the Archdiocese that can reasonably be made available and therefore, such an action would leave the Archdiocese unable to provide a just and proportionate response," according to a statement by Chancellor David W. Smith when the settlement was abruptly rejected in May.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge is awaiting briefs at the end of the week to decide if Law and the archdiocese are bound by the agreement, as Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for the 86 Geoghan plaintiffs, contends.
Smith, the Boston See's main money man, has said in interviews and in testimony that the archdiocese would be forced to close schools and churches if Judge Constance Sweeney rules the settlement was a binding agreement.
"We are not going to mortgage churches, schools or hospitals," Smith told the Herald after the Finance Council's vote. "We just won't do it."
Smith was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Donna Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said she could not answer questions after asking that the questions be e- mailed to her.
But using figures from the assessor's office in each of the 144 communities, the Herald found $159,393,996 in property unrelated to the operation of any active church, school, cemetery or hospital owned by the archdiocese.
Selling off that property, even at assessed value alone, plus the estimated $40 million in insurance money church officials have said is available would easily cover the Geoghan settlement and provide enough money for the estimated 400 remaining victims without affecting active parishes, said experts.
Thomas Bean, a partner with Nutter, McLellan & Fish who also heads the Boston Bar Association's bankruptcy section, said even if the archdiocese follows through on its bankruptcy threat, that would not necessarily let officials off the hook or save its property.
"It all depends on who owns the properties and what entities file for bankruptcy," said Bean. "If the owner of the property is a defendant against whom a judgment is claimed then the plaintiffs could proceed against the properties."
All the properties found by the Herald list the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, a Corporation Sole, as the owner. The corporation and Law are two of the defendants in the lawsuit by Geoghan victims as well as other priests' victims.
Bean, who said the church appears to be "land rich and cash poor," said officials might be forced to sell some of its land to satisfy a judgment.
"The only way to pay it might be to liquidate property and pay the settlement," said Bean. "Inside a bankruptcy, the court can authorize the debtor to sell land to raise cash."
The amount realized from selling the property could be many times higher than the assessed value if the archdiocese sold the buildings and land in the current "red hot" real estate market, according to realtors in eastern Massachusetts.
"People are pulling their money out of the stock market and putting it into residential development," said Sean Keanelly, vice president of Key Real Estate in Quincy, a leading commercial realtor on the South Shore. "That area is red hot right now. The market for real estate for Quincy and in the South Shore hasn't been hurt by the economy."
Shuttered schools, empty parish halls, closed convents, undeveloped land and buildings rented to sectarian organizations and businesses are sprinkled throughout the archdiocese.
The cardinal's residence along with the chancery offices and St. John's Seminary sit on a plush and sprawling 1.9 million square foot plot on Lake Street and Commonwealth Avenue, valued by Boston assessors at $28.3 million. Smith has said the archdiocese would consider selling the property, which could fetch $100 million on the open market, if there was "suitable property" to replace it.
While the chancery may be the best known and most valuable of the church's holdings in Boston, which exceed $250 million total, there are numerous other buildings in the city that the church has either shuttered or rented out.
At 750 Dorchester Ave. in Dorchester, Dirigo Spice runs its shipping operation out of the building that once housed the archdiocese's central laundry facility overlooking the Southeast Expressway.
In nearby Brookline, the archdiocese has closed two churches, including St. Aidan's, where slain President John F. Kennedy was baptized and served as an altar boy. The church and rectory, valued at $2,880,200, has been targeted by the archdiocese to be rehabbed for condominiums, including nine high-end units mixed with affordable housing.
On West Roxbury Parkway in Brookline, the former Infant Jesus church, which was consolidated with St. Lawrence, sits empty as does its well kept four-bedroom rectory in the upscale neighborhood. The buildings are valued at $1,512,400.
In Weymouth, the former Immaculate Conception School and adjacent convent, valued at $2.2 million, is host to the Weymouth Food Pantry and 12-step meetings just outside the growing Jackson Square.
In Newburyport, developers have been clamoring to buy a former church assessed at $3.34 million.
The buildings are located in a downtown area where the real estate market is "hot as a pistol," said Paul Keenan, a commercial real estate broker in Salisbury.
Keenan, who has developed former churches into housing, said the old buildings can be converted into especially comfortable living space.
"With the help of an architect, you can put some pretty good units there," he said.
In Hingham, HRPT Advisors, a real estate investment group, donated more than 40 acres of developable land in the French Estates to the archdiocese several years ago. The property is in the middle of half-million dollar homes, and one local realtor said the $836,000 assessment is about one-quarter of what the parcel could bring for development.
On Plum Island in Newbury, the archdiocese owns nearly an acre of land assessed by the town at $389,100. Because the property is not being used for a religious purpose, the church paid taxes on it in 2001, according to Town Hall records.
While the majority of properties either lie empty or are rented out, the church has made attempts to sell some of its land.
In Waltham, where the church owns more than $60 million in property citywide, Middlesex County donated 25 acres on Trapelo Road to the archdiocese with the proviso the land not be sold for profit.
But when the county was eliminated after it went bankrupt, church lawyers determined the restriction no longer existed and began negotiating with city officials to sell the property for $2.5 million for a proposed "Emerald Necklace."
"We haven't met since this whole thing (the sex abuse scandal) came down," said Waltham City Councilor Robert S. Kelly. "We have identified that 25 acres and we want it. I'd rather do it from a friendly basis. I'm trying to work with them. Their priorities have obviously changed, ours have not."
And then there are free-standing houses scattered throughout the archdiocese. Many are in cities near parishes that closed long ago.
Others occupy tranquil suburban sites.
In Salisbury, the archdiocese owns a house, formerly known as the "parsonage on the beach," assessed at $414,200. Another home in Hull on Samoset Avenue valued at $229,200, just yards from Nantasket Beach, is being rented out by the church.
The vast majority of property owned by the archdiocese is tax exempt although a few communities do levy property taxes on rent collected by the church from for-profit entities.
The archdiocese also owns extensive old buildings, especially closed schools, that are no longer used for worship or major parochial educational endeavors.
The city of Salem rents a building owned by the archdiocese and valued at $1.98 million. In Belmont, the town rents the former Our Lady of Mercy parish hall, valued at $3.5 million, while in Bridgewater, town officials are negotiating to rent the $1.2 million center at St. Thomas Aquinas while renovations are done on town offices.
The archdiocese has closed the former St. Colman's Elementary School in Brockton and has made the $2.6 million building within walking distance to downtown available for lease.
A private girl's school in Natick educates its students in a rented $2.5 million building while the Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge holds classes in a portion of $6.7 million complex that housed a now-defunct St. John's elementary school.
In Franklin, the former St. Mary's Elementary School, sitting on 5.29 acres and valued at $1.5 million in the heart of the bustling downtown area, is home to the Benjamin Franklin Charter School. If that were put on the block, it would fetch much more, said one local realtor.
"The assessment is probably on the conservative side," said Andrew Bissanti of Bissanti Realty in Franklin. "It would make a great administrative office-type building. Most of the buildings in this town are full already. There's a demand for more."
Bissanti, who is Catholic, said he has often looked at properties the church owns and been frustrated at the number that sit unused.
"I've often wondered why churches don't tap into that (property),"
he said. "There are some very underused properties and they're just
going to waste."
By Jack Sullivan and Eric Convey
While the Herald tallied only those properties no longer used by active churches, schools, hospitals or cemeteries, there are scores of parcels that abut church land that could be sold or used for other purposes.
The Herald did not count these properties in the total but found hundreds of acres of land surrounding churches and rectories as well as towns that have multiple parishes for dwindling populations.
In some communities, Catholic churches are set on large parcels that there is no separate value for but for which there is a precedent for the archdiocese slicing off pieces of the land and selling it.
In Bedford, for instance, the archdiocese carved 5 acres from the Concord Street parcel where St. Michael's is situated and sold it to the town for $1.89 million earlier this year.
In Waltham, city officials are negotiating for a 25-acre parcel behind Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted on Trapelo Road. The city has offered $2.5 million for the land, which the archdiocese received as a donation from Middlesex County decades ago.
In the past four years, the Boston archdiocese has closed or consolidated 26 parishes in its 144 cities and towns, but a number of communities still hold services in multiple churches within their borders.
In the five counties comprising the archdiocese, there are roughly 2.1 million Catholics out of the 3.6 million total population. Urban areas, such as Boston and Lowell, are heavily Catholic, while the smaller suburbs have, on average, a lower percentage of Catholics.
In Boston, where the population decreased nearly 19 percent from the 1990 census to 550,000 in the latest census, 59 parishes dot the city's neighborhoods, including 11 in Dorchester alone. The number of churches averages out to slightly more than 1.2 churches per square mile.
Lowell has 13 parishes within its 13.8 square miles, including several that cater to the growing non-English speaking groups.
Three churches serve the town of Belmont, with a total population of 24,000 and 4.7 square miles, while Salem, with 38,000 residents, has seven active parishes inside 8.7 square miles.
Wellesley, with a population of 26,000, has three parishes within its 10 square miles and its three rectories are valued in excess of $1.5 million in the tony town.
In Tewksbury, the church owns 52 acres of land, described by assessor's records as "vacant," near a cemetery. The property, valued at $224,600, appears to be undeveloped.
Brockton's Cardinal Spellman High School sits on a 32.6 acre plot that city assessors have valued at $3 million for the land alone.
The city is also home to seven churches within its 21.5 square miles. St. Margaret's Church, less than a mile from St. Patrick's, both on Main Street, has been rumored by city officials to be up for sale because dwindling attendance and donations are hindering long- needed repairs. The church, rectory and its surrounding property are valued at $1.5 million.
Bellingham, where the total town population is just under 16,000, has three churches serving the Catholic residents, including two - Assumption and St. Blaise - that are less than a few miles apart. And St. Brendan's is a short drive from either. St. Brendan's sits on a 42-acre lot on Hartford Avenue while St. Blaise overlooks 30.2 acres off South Main Street.
St. Anne's Church and land, valued at $1.5 million, sits on 15.2 acres in a residential neighborhood in Littleton approved for development.
The archdiocese also rents out vacant space in some of the buildings it owns that still house other entities such as parochial schools and shelters. The archdiocese owns a block of property - from 2214 to 2224 Dorchester Ave. - valued at $3,845,000. Part of the parcel is occupied by St. Gregory School but other enterprises, including an elder services angency, also use buildings on the property.
Down the street on Centre Avenue, St. Mark School shares its $4.5 million complex with the Neighborhood Charter School.
Even some clergy have suggested the church might do well to shed certain assets to help deal with the sexual-abuse scandal crisis.
The Rev. Robert J. Carr, a supporter of Bernard Cardinal Law and staff priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, complained on his Web site that the church was acting like a "corporation." He went on to suggest selling the properties of schools that were not distinctively Catholic could make sense.
Some assessors and church officials have argued the architecture of some of the buildings lower the market value of the properties because of the extensive renovations that would have to be undertaken to make them amenable to different uses.
But there are examples of churches used for other purposes. On Walnut Street in Newton, an old Gothic-style church was transformed into a Chinese restaurant that went out of business, and the old stone structure is now being leased for office space.
In addition, some local Realtors said a growing number of religious groups are searching for properties where they can hold services and house administrative offices.
"I have three different church organizations that are looking for
churches," said Bob Epstein, a commercial real estate broker with
GMAC Carlson Realty in Framingham. "There's plenty of market for
church space. All of a sudden in the last two, three months, it's just
popped up. I just rented one group space in Milford. They're looking to
spend decent money. There is a market if it's marketed."
It's not unknown for defendants in lawsuits to go around poormouthing their situations, but the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston takes the cake.
In yesterday's Herald, reporters Eric Convey and Jack Sullivan inventoried the real property owned by the archdiocese in the 144 cities and towns it covers and found an astonishing $160 million worth NOT BEING USED BY THE CHURCH OR ITS AFFILIATES The actual value of the nearly 2,000 parcels likely is far more - $160 million is the sum of assessed valuations, which lag market values.
Some properties are rented to others, but many are vacant - and excess acreage that could be split off and sold at the locations of active churches and other facilities was not counted at all.
A Superior Court judge is awaiting writen arguments before she decides whether the archdiocese broke an agreement to pay up to $30 million to the 86 abuse victims of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, or whether there was no agreement and the Finance Council of the archdiocese was within its rights to refuse to go forward with what was really a proposed agreement.
The council said coming up with $30 million would have crippled the church and exhausted the resources that could reasonably be expected to be available. Perhaps now somebody from the council will pass out a handout declaring that statement inoperative.
The position of the council and the archdiocese is not pretty, and not likely to arouse sympathy among judges. Either they knew of all these properties but hoped nobody would look behind their sky- is-falling words, which is an attempt to deceive, or they did not know. If they did not, they stand revealed as incompetent advisers and stewards.
It certainly appears that with available insurance, the archdiocese can
settle the Geoghan cases, and an estimated 400 others, without interfering
with church operations after all. This should be its principal aim. Justice
demands prompt action, and the longer the lawsuits hang around, the worse
for the church.
By Lisa Gentes
The selling of archdiocesan land, buildings and property was the subject of a series of articles in the Boston Herald this week. A front page story entitled, “Land Rich, Archdiocese has millions in unused property,” ran in the Aug. 27 edition, along with two accompanying articles and a full page listing estimated property values. The Boston daily ran a follow-up story, “Alleged priest abuse victims rip church over excess land,” Aug. 28. The Herald reported that they reviewed state, county and local land records for three months in order to produce their estimate of the total value of archdiocesan-owned property that is no longer in use, such as vacant schools, churches, buildings and land. According to the Herald report, that total is $159,393,996. The archdiocese said the Herald’s account was not correct.
Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the multi-million dollar figure the Boston Herald reported was not accurate because the report counted property such as Regina Cleri and St. Ignatius, Chestnut Hill, which are, in fact, still in use.
“In the case where the building is not being used for pastoral purposes, the building is still part of the property of the parish,” Father Coyne stated. “The parish may be renting it out and the parish may be using that rent to fund its work.”
Donna Morrissey, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the “uses of Church property are much more complex than that reported by the Boston Herald article.” She stated that rental agreements and leases benefit the many parishes of the archdiocese. Morrissey said many times the rental agreements allow parishes to use the property outside of the hours contained in the lease. “For example, in Franklin, at St. Mary Church, there is a building that is leased, but outside of the lease the property provides space for the religious education classes for over 2,500 children and provides space for parish activities and community events,” she stated.
Morrissey said leases provide parishes with tenants who maintain and repair the property. “Leased properties provide service to the local community, for example the Federal Street building in Salem is used for a public school. These properties are leased for non-profit, educational and social service uses,” she added.
When asked if Cardinal Bernard Law could possibly sell properties and land owned by the archdiocese, Father Coyne said, “If he were to do so, according to Canon Law, if that would happen, it would have to be done in consultation with the parish community.”
Under civil law the cardinal, as a corporation sole, is considered the owner of the property, however, under Canon Law there are different rules and laws the cardinal must abide by. The spokesman said that under Canon Law “the cardinal cannot just come in and decide to take possession of properties and sell it. The property is part of the parish. It is constructed and funded specifically for and by the community of the faithful, and for that purpose.”
Land and property owned by the archdiocese does not necessarily mean fast money for the use of the archdiocese or the archbishop. “As any businessman or woman would tell you, or as any accountant would tell you, property assets do not, are not in any way, as liquid or available in the same way as cash,” Father Coyne stated. “Just because we supposedly have this property does not mean that that property is free and available for use as cash.”
However, the archdiocese in not completely close-minded when it comes to the suggestion of property sales. “The archdiocese of Boston has never said that we are not open in any way to the sale of property,” Father Coyne said. “If any[thing], we won’t sell any property until after the settlements, until we know how much money we have to raise.”
The spokesman said the archdiocese was only asked for comment by the Herald the day before the story ran. “We heard about it early in the morning and then they sent us a large list of very involved questions later in the day where we could not possibly answer in time for their deadline.”
The archdiocese did comment in terms of a general response, Father Coyne noted.
“It wasn’t a fair story; it wasn’t accurate,” he added. “To claim that we have all this property that therefore can easily be transformed into a large amount of cash for settlements is not fair at all to the archdiocese, and not fair at all to how this works out in any institutional walk of life.”
Jack Sullivan, one of the Boston Herald reporters who wrote the series
of articles, said he stands by his story. Sullivan said he and his colleagues
began researching the story idea shortly after the archdiocesan Finance
Council reneged on the alleged Geoghan settlement in May. The reporters
wrote the story on Aug. 23 and 26 and sought comment from the archdiocese
on Aug. 26 and 27 for the following day’s story, respectively, according
to Sullivan. “The archdiocese didn’t dispute the ownership
or the existence of the properties, at least to me,” he said.
By Kathleen Burge firstname.lastname@example.org
A lawyer for the Archdiocese of Boston yesterday asked a judge to dismiss nearly 500 civil lawsuits filed by alleged victims of clergy abuse, arguing that secular courts cannot legally plumb the relationship between church leaders and their priests. The archdiocese brought in a Colorado lawyer and First Amendment expert to make its case yesterday before Judge Constance M. Sweeney in Suffolk Superior Court.
L. Martin Nussbaum argued that the relationship between church officials and priests - involving issues of church doctrine, sacramental practices, and canon law - is much different from the relationship between a secular employer and employee.
''It is absolutely our position that when it comes to this bishop-priest relationship ... the court can't get into the business of defining what a reasonably prudent bishop would do in that relationship,'' said Nussbaum, who attached Bible passages and writings of St. Augustine to his legal brief.
Sweeney repeatedly interrupted Nussbaum to question him about his argument, proposing hypothetical examples and then asking for his response. She described the case of a bishop who knew a priest was raping children, yet kept reassigning him to new parishes, suggesting that there would be ''at least a serious issue'' of criminally charging the bishop as an accessory after the fact.
Nussbaum declined to answer her question, saying he wasn't familiar with Massachusetts criminal law. He gave a similar answer when Sweeney asked him whether his argument would gut the state's new mandatory reporting requirement for clergy who learn about possible child abuse.
Sweeney, who said she will rule in about a month, also questioned Nussbaum about the breadth of his argument.
''It appears to me the [archdiocese] is taking the position that they have absolute immunity on all civil court actions,'' Sweeney said.
Nussbaum disagreed. He said church officials wouldn't fight criminal prosecution of offending priests, or civil lawsuits filed against the priests themselves, if not their supervisors. Alleged victims can also turn to the church's ecclesiastical courts, he said.
The alleged victims argue in their lawsuits that church leaders were negligent in overseeing pedophile priests, shuffling them from parish to parish, even as they knew the priests would probably continue to molest children.
Yesterday, lawyers for the alleged victims asked Sweeney not to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that while the First Amendment protects religious belief, it doesn't protect illegal conduct. The church is using the Constitution to evade its responsibility for returning pedophile priests to parishes, the lawyers said.
''This Catholic Church does not want us to use our law to decide these cases,'' said Jeffrey Newman, one of the lawyers. ''It wants to use their own internal law.''
Another lawyer for alleged victims, William H. Gordon, argued that the church tried to cover up, rather than prevent, sexual abuse by priests.
Lawyers for the alleged victims have argued that other states have rejected arguments like Nussbaum's. Once before, Sweeney rejected the First Amendment argument when she allowed the Globe's motion in November 2001 to unseal church records in the case of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan.
When the archdiocese filed its motion to dismiss the civil lawsuits, archdiocesan officials said the legal argument was necessary to satisfy the church's insurance carriers that the archdiocese was vigorously fighting the lawsuits.
After the hearing yesterday, a spokesman for the archdiocese declined to discuss the legal issues. Reading from a prepared statement, the spokesman said the church remains committed to reaching a ''global resolution'' of the legal claims.
''We reiterate that today's motion in no way seeks to diminish the serious nature of what has been experienced by victims in this archdiocese,'' said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne. ''However, we have a responsibility to protect our unique constitutional inheritance of the separation of church and state.''
In court, Nussbaum said that the church believes that people can genuinely change. ''Some of the greatest leaders in church history are, as the church would say, redeemed sinners, but as our civil justice might say, former criminals,'' he said.
Kathleen Burge can be reached at email@example.com.
By Michael Rezendes
The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear an appeal in a clergy sexual molestation case this week that could erode the legal basis for many of the 500 or more claims pending against the Archdiocese of Boston. The lawsuit was filed in 1998 by a woman who said she was repeatedly molested by the Rev. Gerard E. Creighton in 1958, when she was a 16- and 17-year-old high school student preparing to become a nun.
At issue is whether the state's statute of limitations for civil claims made by people abused as minors expired before the woman filed her suit. The statute sets a three-year limit for such claims, but has exceptions that allow many suits to be brought much later.
Attorneys who are following the Creighton case say that if the state's highest court decides that the statute of limitations has expired, it could limit future lawsuits against the church and prompt lawyers for many plaintiffs to settle their claims out of court.
On the other hand, if the SJC affirms an Appeals Court ruling and clears the way for a jury trial, it might encourage even more people with claims decades old to come forward and file lawsuits.
''If the court makes a big pronouncement on the statute of limitations, it could have a big impact on these cases,'' said Michael Avery, a Suffolk Law School professor and a specialist on rules of evidence.
Whatever the court decides after hearing arguments this Thursday, it will be addressing one of the more difficult questions in civil child sex abuse cases: Exactly when does the clock on the state's three-year statute of limitations start ticking?
Under state law, a person sexually assaulted as a minor has until three years after turning 18 to file a lawsuit. But the law also clears the way for cases brought long after that by saying that the clock on the three-year statute does not start until the victim either ''discovered or reasonably should have discovered'' that the alleged sexual molestation caused an emotional or psychological injury.
Many of the 500 pending claims against the archdiocese have been made by people who say they were abused decades ago, but who also claim they only recently realized that the molestation caused subsequent harm.
In the lawsuit against Creighton, the alleged victim, who is not named in court papers, said she began to suffer emotional harm immediately after the alleged abuse began in 1958, and continued to suffer for decades.
But David Dwork, the woman's attorney, said she did not make a connection between the alleged abuse and the emotional damage until 1995, when she confronted Creighton, who was on an extended leave of absence, in a Cape Cod furniture store that he operated. She filed her lawsuit almost three years later, in 1998. Creighton has denied the woman's allegations, although the Boston Archdiocese paid her $150,000 in 1998 to settle her separate claims against the church.
A superior court judge dismissed the lawsuit against Creighton in 2000, saying the statute of limitations had expired. In his ruling, Judge James F. McHugh wrote that the woman, by arguing that she did not make the connection between the alleged abuse and her emotional injury until she stopped blaming herself and started blaming Creighton, ''seeks to slice the matter too finely.''
The woman prevailed in the state Appeals Court. But then the high court agreed to hear Creighton's appeal -- and with more than 500 other claims pending, took the appeal on an expedited basis.
The Appeals Court decision was based on a 2001 SJC ruling -- in a lawsuit not involving clergy -- that said the question of whether the statute of limitations had expired in the case of a man sexually assaulted 30 years earlier should have been left to a jury.
But court records show there are significant factual differences between the abuse case that led to the 2001 decision and the case against Creighton. One difference is that the woman in the Creighton case, who is no longer a nun, became a teacher and was likely to know that sexual abuse of children can cause lasting psychological harm. In fact, teachers in Massachusetts and many other states are required to report child sexual abuse to authorities.
For this reason and others, Creighton has said it's clear the statute of limitations expired before the woman filed her suit, and that a judge should be allowed to make that determination without presenting the question to a jury.
Some attorneys believe that, because the SJC so recently issued its opinion in the case of the man molested 30 years ago, it's unlikely to reverse itself or narrow the time period in which child abuse victims may file suits. But others believe the court wouldn't have agreed to hear Creighton's appeal if it were not at least reconsidering its previous ruling.
Dwork, the attorney for the woman, said he will argue before the high court that a jury be allowed to determine whether the woman's suit falls within the statute of limitations.
But Marielise Kelly, one of the attorneys representing Creighton, said
that if the woman prevails in her attempt to bring the question to a jury,
the SJC will have said that ''for all practical purposes, there is no
statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.''
By Michael Rezendes
The Boston Archdiocese has formally accused attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. of making public statements that could prevent Cardinal Bernard F. Law and other church officials from receiving fair trials in two clergy sexual abuse cases, and is preparing to ask a Superior Court judge to restrict his public comments on the lawsuits. In a court motion served Thursday evening, the church also accused MacLeish of violating the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, citing 31 specific statements he has made to the news media and a recent speech he delivered at Boston University Law School.
''A protective order is the only manner in which to ensure that Mr. MacLeish will not make any additional extrajudicial statements which will further erode the right of the defendants to receive fair trials,'' the church said in its motion.
But MacLeish said yesterday that his statements are well within ethical bounds, and rooted in legal documents already made public. He also noted that the church has frequently commented on the lawsuits through its archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and through attorneys such as J. Owen Todd, who has publicly criticized the Superior Court judge overseeing the lawsuits, Constance M. Sweeney.
''The open comments Owen Todd has made critical of Judge Sweeney have been the subject of extensive discussion,'' MacLeish said. ''And I would never think of trying to prevent Owen from expressing his opinion because I know he has a First Amendment right to do so.''
Todd, who is Law's personal attorney, said he would not comment on the church's motion. But Joseph L. Doherty, an attorney for Bishop John B. McCormack, said, ''The purpose of the motion is to require compliance with the rules and prevent any further prejudice as we move toward trial.''
Advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse said the church's latest legal maneuver undercuts Bishop Richard G. Lennon's repeated assertions that the archdiocese wants to settle approximately 500 sexual abuse claims quickly to avoid the trauma, risk, and expense of going to trial.
''It's just one more sign that there is little reason to hope Bishop Lennon's tenure will be any different than Law's,'' said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Clohessy, citing what he described as a pattern of aggressive legal tactics used by the church, also noted an earlier church decision to require pretrial testimony from psychotherapists treating abuse victims, and a recent motion to have all the sexual abuse claims dismissed on freedom of religion grounds, under the First Amendment.
''They're trying to use the First Amendment when it's to their advantage and ignoring it when it works against them,'' he said.
The motion for an order limiting MacLeish's freedom to comment on the cases was signed by attorneys for Law, who resigned as archbishop in December, and two of his former subordinates, McCormack, now the bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, and Bishop Thomas V. Daily of the Brooklyn-Queens dioceese. All three are defendants in two civil lawsuits filed by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley that are expected to go to trial in the spring.
More than 200 other claims by victims are subject to a 90-day legal truce -- a so-called ''stand-down'' -- that was established to allow attorneys for the church and alleged victims time to explore an out-of-court financial settlement. But MacLeish and his cocounsel, Jeffrey A. Newman, said they interpret the motion to restrict MacLeish's public comments as a sign that the church is more inclined to vigorously contest cases than to settle.
''If they want a war, they're going to get one,'' MacLeish said.
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Lennon and the archdiocese remain committed to an out-of-court financial settlement.
The rules of conduct cited by the church in its motion prohibit lawyers from making statements ''that will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.''
But the rule also says lawyers are permitted to describe public legal documents, including depositions and other legal records. The rules, authorities say, are interpreted to take account of the complex balance between a defendant's right to a fair trial, an attorney's right to free expression, and the vital public interests that may be at stake in a legal proceeding.
''The rule is designed to prevent prejudice in adjudicative proceedings but it also takes into account a First Amendment protection to speak out,'' said Arnold R. Rosenfeld, the former head of the state board that oversees the conduct of lawyers.
Rosenfeld also said that Sweeney, when she considers the church motion, might determine that MacLeish's public comments were permissible if she finds that he was careful to limit his comments to publicly filed church documents.
Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics specialist at New York University School of Law who is familiar with Massachusetts rules of conduct, also said public comments that restate what has been placed in the public records are permitted, and that rules on professional conduct accommodate an attorney's right to free speech.
But Gillers also said Sweeney may find that MacLeish strayed from permissible conduct by interpreting or characterizing thousands of pages of deposition transcripts and internal church documents in a manner that may harm defendants.
Sweeney has expressed concern about some public remarks by MacLeish and the effect they may have on the ability of church officials to receive a fair trial in Greater Boston. At a court hearing last June, for example, Sweeney said, ''I just see the continuing erosion of what I see as the ability to get a fair and neutral jury pool.''
Sweeney did not mention MacLeish by name at the hearing, but the timing of her remarks made it clear she was referring to a 2 1/2-hour presentation MacLeish made to the news media last April, after the release of 800 pages of church records in the Shanley case.
''I'm making no secret of how taken aback I was by what I saw on TV,''
Sweeney said. Referring to the rules of conduct for lawyers, she added:
''This judge is going to monitor whether these rules are being complied
By Ralph Ranalli
Faced with continuing difficulty negotiating an agreement with its insurance carriers, officials at the Archdiocese of Boston confirmed yesterday that they would not fulfill Bishop Richard G. Lennon's pledge that a settlement offer would be extended by today to hundreds of alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse suing the church in civil court. The announcement enraged alleged abuse victims, who called it proof that church officials still do not comprehend or appreciate their pain. Lawyers for plaintiffs, meanwhile, turned down a request from the archdiocese to extend a 30-day moratorium on litigation that expires today.
''The archdiocese just continues to toy with the emotions of the victims,'' said Gary Bergeron of Lowell, who is suing over abuse he says he suffered at the hands of the Rev. Joseph Birmingham. ''How long am I going to let the archdiocese tell me that what is happening to me isn't important, that I'm not important, and that my family isn't important?''
Today marks the end of the fourth voluntary stoppage of litigation in about 400 of the 500 civil claims brought against the archdiocese by alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse. Lawyers for the plaintiffs agreed to the most recent 30-day stand down after a personal appeal from Lennon, who asked for more time to reach a settlement after a 90-day moratorium expired last month.
Lennon, the interim head of the archdiocese who took over after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, raised expectations for a settlement last week at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in St. Louis when he said he believed church officials would be able to make a settlement offer by the end of this week.
Yesterday, however, the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, released a statement saying that ''issues remain that still need to be resolved with the insurance carriers for the Archdiocese and we are, at this time, unable to make the hoped-for offer.''
Coyne said the church continues ''to keep the lines of communication open . . . in order to bring about a fair, just, and equitable resolution to these cases.'' Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney has scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning. Lawyers for plaintiffs said that litigation will resume on Monday.
''We have nothing to evaluate and no choice but to reject their request
(for more time),'' said Robert A. Sherman, an attorney with the Boston
firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents more than 200 alleged victims
suing the archdiocese. ''We told them a dozen times that (today) was a
hard deadline. How do we go back to our clients now and say `We have nothing
We are all anxious for the financial settlements for those who have suffered from sexual abuse. We know that no amount of money can ever compensate for the damage caused by abuse.
It is most regrettable that there was not more of an awareness of the great consequences in bygone days. If there had been, we can only hope that the church and the psychiatric community would have reacted more decisively in cases of child abuse. We hope that the achievement of financial settlements will be a factor in a process of healing.
I have always told dioceses and lawyers in the past that settlements are not hush money or extortion or anything other than the rightful indemnification of persons that have suffered gravely at the hands of a priest. Even when I have been told that there is no legal obligation, I have always said, if there is a moral obligation, we must step up to the plate. People's lives are more important than money.
In Boston, the numbers of victims are great, and the dollar amounts are staggering. We want to do right by the victims and, at the same time, carry on the essential elements of our mission, especially our mission to give people the good news of the Gospel and to serve the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. I am anxious to learn more about what the archdiocese is doing in its outreach to victims and hear from the victims themselves. We have made many mistakes in the past, but I think we are on the right path. I ask people to work with us.
On whether he plans to change the approach in Boston to reaching settlements in the abuse cases:
Well, it's hard for me to say what changes I would make, since I'm not
sure what's transpiring here. But certainly, in Fall River, we had to
take an insurance company to court to get them to pay, but we tried to
settle as quickly and as equitably as possible, and we used a team of
arbitrators to work with the victims in order to make the allocations.
... I know a lot of progress has been made, but obviously there have been
many obstacles here. I'll try and do whatever I can to expedite the situation.
by Tom Mashberg and Jessica Heslam
Skeptical clergy abuse victims were nearly unanimous yesterday in their praise for Bishop Sean P. O'Malley, saying Boston's archbishop-elect heartened them with his public and private comments on the evils of molestation.
``I heard him use the word `crime' instead of `sin,' and that makes a big difference to us,'' said Christine Hickey, a victim of former Fall River priest James Porter. ``We have to give him a chance.''
And David Lycos of Dracut, who joined a dozen abuse victims for a private session with O'Malley at the chancery in Brighton, said afterward, ``If he continues doing the right thing, I could see myself going back to church one day.''
Many victims who weighed in on O'Malley's whirlwind one-day Boston pilgrimage said they were surprised how upbeat they felt.
Most have experienced months or years of religious estrangement resulting from clergy abuse, halting settlement talks, and the fact that O'Malley is now the third prelate in the past 12 months - after Bernard Cardinal Law and apostolic administrator Richard G. Lennon - to vow action and healing.
``I truly felt he was speaking from his heart - it wasn't a calculated speech,'' said Garry M. Garland, an alleged victim of Monsignor Frederick Ryan, a former archdiocesan vice chancellor. ``Hopefully, he's a quarterback, not a lineman, and will move things forward.''
Two of the church's toughest skeptics, Rodney and Paula Ford of Newton, whose son, Gregory, alleges rape by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, also said they were impressed after visiting O'Malley.
``He seems to be the man we've been looking for - you can see it in his eyes,'' said Rodney Ford, who last year emerged from talks or depositions with Law enraged by the cardinal's tone and style.
Added Paula Ford, ``He apologized and showed us great compassion.''
Bernie McDaid, 47, of Lynn, who like Lycos was allegedly molested by the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, said he joined in reciting the ``Our Father'' with O'Malley at the close of their two-hour session.
``He seems to have a track record of putting victims first,'' said McDaid. ``I hope he realizes we've been waiting a long time already.''
Victims said a resonant moment occurred when Steve Lynch of Salem, who was in the sixth day of a fast outside the chancery, accepted an invitation to sit in on the talks.
``There was a warm, human feeling, and a listening feeling,'' said Lynch. ``But I think he also knows we're holding his feet to the fire.''
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 113 abuse plaintiffs, said many of his clients are now ``cautiously optimistic.''
He added, ``It's an emotional roller coaster for victims. OK, we heard
a great speech today. Let's see if the words are followed up by actions.''
By Ralph Ranalli firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston lawyer who has specialized in helping Catholic leaders reach speedy and amicable agreements with victims of clergy sexual abuse has been hired by the incoming leader of the Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, to help speed the settlement of more than 500 pending lawsuits. Thomas H. Hannigan Jr. said yesterday that he will attend a closed-door conference this morning between lawyers in the case and Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney. Hannigan said that, for now, he will serve in an advisory capacity to O'Malley, who is set to be installed as archbishop July 30.
''Bishop O'Malley has asked me to be his personal source of information in the case,'' Hannigan said during an interview last night. ''He has asked me to assess where things are presently and to give him advice on how to resolve this.''
Hannigan, a lawyer with the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray, has been praised by colleagues and opponents as a low-key, thoughtful lawyer who focuses on the big picture. He worked with O'Malley in Fall River in the early 1990s to settle 101 lawsuits filed by the victims of now defrocked priest James R. Porter, and represented the Jesuits last year, settling abuse claims filed by 15 former students at Boston College High School.
Hannigan declined to comment yesterday on whether his role representing the church would broaden, even though lawyers involved in the case contend that he will assume a lead role after O'Malley's installation as archbishop. ''No decisions have been made yet,'' Hannigan said.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a church spokesman, said yesterday that the longtime attorney for the archdiocese, Wilson D. Rogers Jr., remains the lead attorney.
''There is currently no change in the legal representation of the archdiocese,'' Coyne said.
The official statements aside, a lawyer who has worked with Hannigan said his appearance is a sign that Hannigan will formally supplant Rogers as the lead attorney after O'Malley's installation. Rogers did not return calls yesterday.
The lawyer, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said Hannigan will have behind him the resources of a major law firm, instead of the small family firm currently representing the church that has appeared to struggle at times with the sheer volume of litigation.
Even though Hannigan will not have a formal role for the time being, the lawyer added, ''he will be the elephant in the courtroom'' when Sweeney meets with both sides this morning.
The archdiocese is currently being represented by longtime church attorney Rogers and his son, Wilson D. Rogers III, whose handling of the abuse claims has been criticized by alleged victims and their lawyers.
The Rogerses' firm opened the archdiocese up to criticism by pursuing hardball legal tactics against victims, yet declined to use those same tactics against the church's uncooperative insurance companies, despite being advised to do so by attorneys for victims and a lawyer representing Cardinal Bernard F. Law.
In contrast, when Hannigan worked for O'Malley in Fall River in the early 1990s, the diocese borrowed money to pay at least $8 million in abuse claims, and then sued insurance giant CNA to recover the funds.
Numerous attorneys and others who have worked with Hannigan, 51, of Needham called him the right lawyer if O'Malley, as he has pledged, wants a speedy and fair settlement to the more than 500 outstanding claims.
''He is the most honest, principled, fair-minded man that I know,'' said John M. Hession, a lawyer with the Boston firm McDermott, Will & Emery who was Hannigan's roommate at the University of Notre Dame in the 1970s. ''The guy is a mensch among men.''
Paul Kelly, a fellow Needham resident and Boston lawyer who also worked at Ropes & Gray, called Hannigan a good choice to deal with a case where plaintiffs' emotions have run high.
''He's one of these guys who doesn't have a big ego,'' said Kelly, a partner in the firm Kelly, Libby & Hoopes. ''He's a good, quality lawyer who would make an outstanding diplomat.''
Hannigan, the son of an FBI agent, graduated from Notre Dame in 1974 with a degree in chemical engineering and received his law degree from Boston College Law School in 1979. He is married with three children.
Two lawyers for alleged victims, Roderick MacLeish, Jr. and Jeffrey A. Newman of the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents about 260 alleged victims, praised Hannigan.
''Whatever his role is going to be, I have a lot of confidence that he will make a very, very valuable contribution,'' MacLeish said.
If a settlement can be achieved soon, Newman added, ''Hannigan is the key to that success.''
Walter V. Robinson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
By Ralph Ranalli and Stephen Kurkjian
Moving to end the massive civil litigation surrounding the worst scandal in the US history of the Roman Catholic Church, Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley yesterday made a $55 million settlement offer to 542 people who say they were sexually abused by clergy members.
Since being named archbishop, O'Malley has consistently pledged to make settling abuse claims his top priority. The settlement offer, made nine days after O'Malley was installed as archbishop, appears to be nearly twice what any diocese or archdiocese has paid at one time to settle claims of sexual abuse.
Because the $55 million would be divided among so many plaintiffs, however, lawyers for alleged victims said they are considering the offer as a starting point for negotiations. Even so, they said that O'Malley's decisive action, in contrast to more than a year of frustrating and unproductive settlement talks that preceded it, was cause for cautious optimism. ''Any negotiation has to start in a certain place, and this is a good place,'' said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for the firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents about 260 plaintiffs. ''We believe that there is a lot of good faith being shown by the archdiocese. There are still a lot of obstacles, but we are finally having a worthwhile and constructive dialogue.''
Jeffrey Newman, another lawyer for Greenberg Traurig, said the offer shows that O'Malley is ''absolutely committed to ending the terror that has been visited on innocent victims'' by abusive clergy.
Newman said that the afternoon was promising enough for lawyers at the meeting to inform Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney, who is presiding over the 542 claims, that they are requesting a suspension of almost all of their litigation against the archdiocese. The lawyers also said they wanted to postpone a conference with Sweeney scheduled for later this month.
According to a copy of the offer obtained by the Globe, the church would agree to give up all its legal defenses -- including any arguments under state law regarding the statute of limitations and the church's statutory immunity from large judgments.
Recent state Supreme Judicial Court rulings had appeared to strengthen the archdiocese's legal position on both issues. Lawyers involved in the case, however, said that O'Malley appears to have decided that the harm to the church of dragging the scandal out in the courts outweighs any benefit from defeating legally weak or factually questionable claims in court.
According to the settlement offer, victims would be paid an amount ''based on the type and severity of the abuse and damage sustained by each claimant.''
The letter also says that the archdiocese will have no role in dividing up the money -- that will fall to an outside mediator. The $55 million offer is valid as long as 95 percent of the victims agree to participate in the settlement.
But even those who opt out of the settlement will be provided counseling paid for by the archdiocese.
Under customary arrangements, a third or more of the $55 million would be paid to law firms representing the victims.
A spokesman of the archdiocese, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, declined comment on the offer yesterday, citing an agreement with the mediators not to comment.
But a church official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said that the settlement offer is being financed in part by $15 million raised through the recent sale of church property.
Much of the additional $40 million is expected to come from the insurance companies that provided coverage to the church during many of the years that the alleged abuse took place. O'Malley is planning to get the money from the insurance companies either through negotiation or, if necessary, by taking them to court -- a tactic he used successfully a decade ago when he settled 101 abuse claims in the early 1990s as bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, the official said.
The official said the archdiocese has no plans to sell the 16-acre property in Brighton that includes the headquarters of the archdiocese and the archbishop's residence to fund the settlement, as many victims and their lawyers have urged.
O'Malley announced yesterday that he has decided to live in the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, rather than in the elegant residence on the Brighton grounds used by his four predecessors. In his weekly column in The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, O'Malley said the church no longer needs ''all the symbols of the past.''
The Brighton property is also encumbered by a $38 million first mortgage line of credit given to the archdiocese last year by the Knights of Columbus to cover significant operating deficits. To date, the church has already spent about $27 million of that $38 million, the official said.
About 35 lawyers attended yesterday's 90-minute closed-door session at Le Meridien hotel in Boston, at which two mediators, Paul Sugarman and Paul A. Finn, outlined the archdiocese's offer.
Finn and Sugarman told the lawyers that the $55 million and the other details of the offer had been settled on during a meeting which they attended with O'Malley and Thomas H. Hannigan, O'Malley's newly hired attorney in the settlement talks.
Lawyers interviewed while leaving the meeting were mostly upbeat.
''We've got a change in attitude, tone, and methodology that is very significant,'' said Danvers attorney Alan L. Grenier, who represents 20 clients suing the archdiocese.
The positive statements yesterday were a marked difference from previous negotiations, during which plaintiff's lawyers said virtually no progress was made over more than a year despite three cooling-off periods, where most of the victims agreed to suspend active litigation in order the facilitate a settlement.
Other lawyers were more guarded. Carmen L. Durso, a Boston lawyer, said he wanted to hear from his clients before making an official response to the archdiocese's offer. He said the church's agreement to pay for psychological counseling, regardless of whether an alleged victim accepted the settlement offer, would be well received.
''What we hear from the victims so often is that they need professional and independent counseling,'' Durso said.
The lawyers at the meeting also agreed to form a steering committee composed of lawyers from five firms, who will collect the official responses from the other attorneys. That committee plans to meet next week and then communicate the responses to the offer.
''I think we still have a few months' worth of negotiation to get through,'' said Robert Sherman of Greenberg Traurig, one of the firms represented on the committee. Also on the committee are Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents more than 100 victims, Durso, Timothy O'Connell of Charlestown, and Alan Cantor of Boston.
While the church's offer is technically $55 million, under the proposed agreement that amount could shrink depending on how many plaintiffs finally agree to sign on. For every one that doesn't, the agreement states that the offer would be reduced by 1/542d of the total, or about $101,000.
That average payout per victim under the proposed offer, $101,000 per claim, is similar to major settlements in Louisville, Ky., and Manchester, N.H., over the last two years and slightly less than the average of $116,000 paid to the victims of the Rev. John Geoghan by the Archdiocese of Boston last year under Cardinal Bernard F. Law.
Lawyers involved in the case cautioned, however, that individual cases vary in seriousness and averages are misleading and a poor basis for comparison.
Of the 542 claims, for example, approximately 40 were made by parents who are alleging loss of consortium with victimized children. In past settlements, such consortium claims have received relatively small awards.
In all, about 140 priests and brothers are named as alleged abusers in the claims, some of which date back to the late 1950s. One church employee, former youth worker Christopher Reardon, is also named as an abuser in a dozen claims.
Walter V. Robinson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
By Tom Mashberg and Eric Convey
The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday offered 542 sex abuse plaintiffs $ 55 million to put an end to the litigation whirlwind set off by the clergy molestation scandal.
Some lawyers quickly balked at the sum, while others expressed hope they were nearing the endgame of a global settlement. But all praised new Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley for rapidly putting a solid dollar figure on the table.
"It's a good start," said attorney Robert A. Sherman of Greenberg Traurig, the firm representing 250 alleged abuse victims. "We believe the archdiocese is acting in good faith. It's obvious we've made serious progress in the 10 days Archbishop O'Malley has been here."
Added plaintiffs' attorney Sidney Gorovitz, "We are delighted by Archbishop O'Malley's sincere, serious and hands-on approach."
Civil lawyers quickly formed a "steering committee" of five to spearhead talks with the church.
They will work from a seven-point "offer sheet" presented yesterday by lawyers for the archdiocese with the aid of two mediators.
Among the major provisions:
-- The archdiocese is bound by the $ 55 million offer if 95 percent of plaintiffs sign on within 30 days.
-- The $ 55 million will be divided among the claimants according to a formula that would weigh the nature and severity of each person's sex abuse. The church would play no role in setting the formula, which would be devised and overseen by the lawyers and mediators.
-- Monetary awards would be announced at the end of the allocation process and would be "final and not appealable in any way."
-- Each time a claimant chooses to "opt out" of the settlement pool, the overall $ 55 million sum would be reduced by 1-542d.
-- The archdiocese will continue to run a counseling operation for any and all victims, regardless of whether they join the settlement.
-- Legal issues such as negligence, statutes of limitations for filing molestation claims and charitable immunity for nonprofit entities like the Catholic Church will not factor into the allocations.
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said yesterday it was church policy not to comment on the talks.
He would not reveal the source of the $ 55 million. But one lawyer deeply familiar with the matter said it was ponied up in recent days by wealthy area Catholics "who want to help O'Malley heal their church." The lawyer said the archdiocese would likely sue its insurers rather than sell property to recoup any settlement funds.
The offer was conveyed to the plaintiffs' lawyers during an afternoon meeting in Boston overseen by mediators Paul R. Sugarman, a Boston lawyer, and Paul A. Finn, head of Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation of Brockton.
The offer itself was prepared by attorney Thomas H. Hannigan Jr. of Ropes & Gray "in accordance with the wishes" of O'Malley, according to a cover letter signed by the lawyer. Hannigan, who was made lead counsel in the church abuse litigation by O'Malley a week ago, replacing the Rogers Law Firm, did not respond yesterday to a call seeking comment.
In response to the offer, plaintiffs' lawyers agreed once again to halt court proceedings in nearly every lawsuit slated for civil trial in Suffolk Superior Court before Judge Constance M. Sweeney.
But a few, including the high-profile case pitting Gregory Ford of Newton against the church over allegations aimed at the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, will proceed for the time being, the lawyers said.
"It is an interesting offer," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has about 140 cases against the church and will be one of the five members of the steering committee. "I want to stress that there is a lot of work left to be done."
Attorney Carmen L. Durso, also a member of the steering panel, said: "We are cautiously optimistic about this offer. There are aspects that show good will, but we are not going to rush into anything."
At $ 55 million, the offer is by far the largest made to settle allegations of clergy abuse in dioceses around the nation. In June, the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., agreed to pay $ 25.7 million to 243 people who said they were abused.
In September 2002, the church offered a $ 10 million settlement to Garabedian for 86 victims of the former Rev. John J. Geoghan.
Bill Gately, New England co-coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: "We're pleased to see a step in a very positive direction, but no settlement, no matter the amount, will do anything to eradicate the damage and pain of sexual abuse."
Ann H. Webb, another advocate, added: "I hope people are not pressured
into settling if they are not satisfied with this offer."
By Thomas Farragher email@example.com
Grown men, attacked as boys by priests they once trusted and revered,
studied the price tag the church placed on their abuse yesterday and struggled
to assess the proper compensation for the lost innocence and a betrayal
that, they said, has shadowed their lives as adults.
''You have to live with the scars that you have received and whole lives that have been badly damaged,'' said Bernie McDaid, who says he was abused by the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham in Salem 40 years ago. ''What is the money value of that?''
William Oberle, an alleged victim of the Rev. Paul Mahan, who was defrocked in 1998, figured that the church's offer would amount to an average payment of about $70,000 per victim after legal fees are deducted.
''That's a blasphemy as far as I'm concerned,'' Oberle said. ''I don't want to settle. I want my day in court.''
Several victims said they wanted to consult with their lawyers before deciding whether to embrace the church's offer or to renounce it. The leader of a national victims' group said each plaintiff will have to make a deeply personal decision.
''Survivors are just like any other group of people and their response to this will be quite diverse,'' said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. ''I only hope that, in the decision-making, that survivors will be heard and continue to support one another regardless of the outcome.''
The archdiocese's offer yesterday remains valid only if 95 percent of those making claims against the church accept it within 30 days after the church and the lawyers for the alleged victims sign an agreement.
Even some victims who are eager to put the case behind them said that will be a difficult threshold to meet.
''I don't think you're going to see that,'' said David Lyko of Dracut, an alleged victim of Birmingham. ''There's a lot of guys in the group who are not looking for the money. They just want to get to court.''
Lyko, who said he intends to be in the Lowell church today where Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley plans to say Mass, wants to discuss the church's offer with his lawyer.
''There's no amount of money that can cover what was done to us,'' Lyko said. ''But I want to settle. I don't want to live with this for the next seven years.''
Lyko and another alleged Birmingham victim, Gary Bergeron of Lowell, said the speed with which O'Malley has moved on the legal cases represents a refreshing change from the church's courtroom stance under Cardinal Bernard F. Law.
''I've seen four or five steps that O'Malley has taken over the last 10 days which leads me to believe that he is sincere,'' said Bergeron. ''He's done more in the last 10 days than what has occurred in the last year and a half.''
The church's offer includes a promise to continue to provide counseling and pastoral programs, which several victims said must be part of any deal.
''You can't just hand these men and women a check and say, `We've done our part. Go live your lives.' There's a much bigger responsibility for the church,'' Bergeron said.
Oberle, in flatly rejecting the church's offer, said he thinks the church should pay each plaintiff $500,000 to $1 million.
''My lawyer promised me six figures when all this started,'' said Oberle. ''We've been beaten to death by this whole thing. They've got to pay more than that.''
Rodney Ford, whose son Gregory was allegedly molested in Newton by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, said he, too, will reject the settlement offer if it allows a mediator to decide how to split up the $55 million among victims. The church's proposal yesterday provides that the money be allocated by the mediators and victims' lawyers, working together.
''This family is not going to be part of any talks as a group,'' Ford said. ''They're going to handle the Ford case separately and independently or we're going to trial.''
Ford, who said his 26-year-old son's life has been unalterably damaged by Shanley's assaults, said he will press for a speedy trial during court hearings this month.
''I had heard the settlement was going to take close to $150 million,'' he said. ''If they're only coming up with $55 million, they're not serious about it.''
Clohessy said Boston's victims will examine what victims elsewhere have received in settlements. ''But in large measure it's irrelevant to people who have suffered so much for so long. What matters is that they feel some peace.''
Thomas Farragher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kevin Cullen
By taking a less adversarial posture and moving swiftly to present a substantial cash offer, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley and his lawyer, Thomas H. Hannigan Jr., are hoping to reprise in Boston the legal strategy that led to the relatively quick, amicable settlement they reached with victims of clergy sexual abuse in Fall River 11 years ago.
Those who took part in the 1992 negotiations that led to an initial $5 million settlement for 101 victims of serial pedophile and former priest James R. Porter say the key was the willingness of O'Malley and Hannigan to transform the mediation process into a healing event.
George N. Hurd Jr., a former judge who helped mediate the Fall River case, said negotiations there had seemed destined to collapse in August 1992 when he told O'Malley that Porter's victims ''had had it, and were going to walk.''
Hurd said O'Malley's gentle demeanor suddenly turned steely.
''That's it,'' O'Malley told him, slapping his palm on a table. ''We're going to resolve this even if it bankrupts the diocese.''
That resolve, Hurd said, was shared by Hannigan, who was not deterred by the refusal of the diocese's insurance company to cover the settlement. O'Malley hit the phones, looking for money to pay the victims, Hannigan successfully sued the insurer, and a case that seemed destined for a series of messy, painful trials was settled within a few months.
Yesterday, the pastoral-legal team of O'Malley and Hannigan took a page from their Fall River playbook, offering $55 million in an attempt to resolve more than 500 claims against the Archdiocese of Boston. As he did in Fall River, O'Malley has inherited a stalled legal dispute between those who say they were abused by priests and an archdiocese facing possible bankruptcy because its insurers may balk at paying.
O'Malley's predecessor in Boston, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, left the legal niceties to his attorney, Wilson D. Rogers Jr., whose hardball tactics antagonized alleged victims. The day after his July 30 installation as archbishop, O'Malley replaced Rogers with Hannigan as lead counsel in the abuse cases, and has since taken a hands on role in the legal process.
Alleged victims and their attorneys had been infuriated by Rogers' legal maneuvers, which were fair game under the adversarial rules of litigation but were seen by many as unseemly given that the defendant was a church and that the damages claimed involved the sexual abuse of minors. Rogers, who did not respond to a request for an interview, vigorously challenged plaintiffs, but did not go after the insurance companies.
Last Monday, according to lawyers involved in the case, O'Malley met at the archdiocese headquarters in Brighton with Hannigan and mediators Paul A. Finn and Paul R. Sugarman, figuratively putting his foot down as he had literally put his palm down 11 years ago.
Many who settled claims against the Fall River diocese said O'Malley and Hannigan won them over by making them feel that helping the victims heal was an integral part of the legal process. John Robitaille, one of Porter's victims, said O'Malley set the stage by meeting with a group of about 20 victims while litigation was pending.
''His humility and his openness and accountability took us by surprise after all the obstacles and trouble we had encountered up to that point,'' Robitaille said. ''On the legal side, Hannigan was cut from the same cloth as O'Malley. When Hannigan deposed me, I didn't feel he disbelieved me . . . The process became less intimidating. It became more human.''
On the day he was announced as Law's replacement, O'Malley met with some plaintiffs in the Boston case, and some of them attended his installation, saying they sensed in him a sincerity they found lacking in Law.
But many plaintiffs remain skeptical, and not all of Porter's victims were satisfied. Frank L. Fitzpatrick, a Rhode Island private investigator who as a boy was abused by Porter and later exposed him as a serial pedophile, said O'Malley and Hannigan resisted efforts to completely end the church's practice of covering up abuse. Fitzpatrick said O'Malley continued to seek confidentiality agreements from victims who stepped forward after 1992.
Asked if Fitzpatrick's allegation was true, John E. Kearns Jr., a spokesman for the diocese, said, ''Not that I'm aware of.''
Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer who represented more than 100 plaintiffs in Fall River, and whose firm represents some 260 of those with claims against the archdiocese, said O'Malley, Hannigan and diocesan lawyer Frederic J. Torphy ''showed a real human side'' in Fall River.
''Hannigan and Torphy were near tears, as was Bishop O'Malley, listening to these stories,'' MacLeish said. ''And with these guys, we weren't always talking about money, but how does something positive come out of this, how the victims would feel good about it. We also talked about how we could get Porter prosecuted.''
Porter was eventually sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison.
''The legal strategy was to settle and worry about the money later,'' MacLeish said of Hannigan's approach. ''But it was such a nonlegal process in many ways. It was a lot about interpersonal dealings, and in that respect Tom Hannigan and Wilson Rogers are night and day.''
Hannigan declined to comment for this article, except to say that ''a lot of the credit I'm getting should go to Fred Torphy. He was the lead negotiator in Fall River.''
Torphy said Hannigan's gentlemanly courtroom demeanor, and his dedication to helping the Catholic Church, is due in part to the influence of Hannigan's late mentor, Edward B. Hanify, who introduced O'Malley to Hannigan. Besides running the trial department at Ropes & Gray, Hanify was chief counsel to Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, Boston's archbishop from 1944 until 1970.
Finn and Hurd also played critical roles. John H. Daignault, a forensic psychologist who examined the Fall River victims, said the victims told him they felt Finn and Hurd believed them when they told their stories.
''For many of these victims, the process itself was more important than the money,'' Daignault said. ''They wanted to be believed.''
While Hurd is not involved in the Boston case, Finn is a mediator, as he was last winter when Boston College High School settled for $5.8 million 15 claims brought against two Jesuit priests who taught at the Dorchester school. Hannigan represented the Jesuit order, while MacLeish represented most of the claimants. Daniel J. Gleason, the lawyer who represented BC High, said Hannigan's style is suited to such emotionally charged negotiations.
''He has the right tone of voice, he chooses his words well,'' Gleason said. ''He has the right level of backbone, but it's his style and technique. He delivers it so people don't get riled. He doesn't back off his position, but he never escalates.''
Gleason thinks the presence of so many of the same personalities who settled the Fall River and BC High cases means the convoluted Boston case could be settled relatively quickly.
''I think it bodes well,'' Gleason said. ''If anybody's going to pull it off, it's this lineup.''
Just as it remains unclear how the Boston Archdiocese will come up with the $55 million, it remains a mystery to this day where O'Malley came up with the initial $5 million he paid out to Porter's victims.
Kearns said he could not disclose how or where O'Malley got the money, or how much the diocese won back from its insurance company.
''Bishop Sean has a way of making these things happen,'' Kearns said.
Walter V. Robinson and Stephen Kurkjian of the Globe staff contributed
to this report.
By Eddy Ramirez
As lawyers for alleged victims of clergy abuse gather this week to decide whether to accept a $55 million settlement offer by the Archdiocese of Boston, a victims advocacy group urged the church yesterday to respond with more money and disclose the names of all priests and bishops named in the abuse allegations.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley met with more than a dozen alleged victims and their relatives Saturday night at a private residence in Hudson, N.H., to discuss how he could help bring healing to the archdiocese and its members.
O'Malley's offer of a $55 million settlement prompted criticism from the group Survivors First. It urged full disclosure of all abuse charges and a $300 million settlement, saying that any agreement would set a precedent for more than 20 other dioceses facing clergy abuse litigation.
"What we want as part of this global settlement, if it should occur, is a gigantic leap of faith on the part of Archbishop O'Malley," Joe Gallagher told reporters outside the chancery in Brighton.
Last Friday, nine days after being installed as archbishop, O'Malley made the $55 million settlement offer to 542 people who say that priests had abused them.
The offer is valid as long as 95 percent of the victims agree to participate in the settlement. If accepted, an outside mediator would divide the money among the victims with $101,000 as the average payment per victim.
Expressing cautious optimism, lawyers for the victims have said they consider the offer a starting point for negotiations.
But Phil Cogswell of Concord, a plaintiff who says he was abused by former priest John J. Geoghan, said yesterday that he would not settle. "I don't know what my life is worth, but I know that they like to attach an amount to it, and I'm not really going to take it," Cogswell said. "I don't think that's what I'm worth."
Paul Baier, president of Survivors First, said the average payment offered does not do justice to victims, who for years incurred costs such as transportation and professional counseling fees, as well as missed workdays. "I do not believe we gain moral authority by nickel-and-diming victims when [the church has] more ability to pay," he said.
Citing a Boston Herald report that said the archdiocese owns property valued at $160 million, which the victims' group believes could now be worth $220 million, Baier said the archdiocese can afford a $300 million settlement [see Golbe correction below], if it sells its 16-acre campus at the chancery in Brighton and collects $40 million from insurance companies.
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, has declined to comment on the proposed settlement, saying that both sides had publicly agreed not to discuss negotiations.
But a church official familiar with the negotiations, who spoke to the Globe last week, said that the proposed settlement would be financed in part by the recent sale of church property. The official added that he expected insurance companies to put up the rest.
The same official said the archdiocese has no plans to raise additional money by selling the Brighton property, which includes the archbishop's residence.
O'Malley has repeatedly said he wants to make settling abuse claims his top priority. A day after reaching out to a Lowell parish where the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham has been accused of sexually assaulting as many as 25 boys during his tenure there, O'Malley also met for two hours with 15 victims and their relatives in Hudson, N.H..
"We wanted the bishop to understand how much hope we're placing in him," said Gary Bergeron, who says Birmingham abused him. "Not just survivors, but the church and the community are looking for a leader, a true spiritual leader, which is what Boston has been lacking."
Globe correspondent Elizabeth Boch contributed to this report.
By Globe Staff
Correction: Because of reporting errors, a story in yesterday's City
& Region section about the settlement offered by the Archdiocese of
Boston to victims of clergy sexual abuse incorrectly said the victims
advocacy group Survivors First is urging a $300 million settlement. The
group believes the church has the ability to raise $300 million for a
settlement by selling unused church property and collecting insurance.
The story also should have noted that the church property valued at $160
million is unused, vacant property. The story also misstated the date
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley met with a group of alleged victims after
celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Church in Lowell. The meeting took place
By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg
Top aides to Bernard Cardinal Law compiled detailed annual reports on the extent and cost of clergy sexual abuse starting in the mid-1990s, and the Archdiocese of Boston went to great lengths to shroud the data in secrecy, records made available yesterday reveal.
Suggested by rules embraced by the church in 1994, the reports are a detailed roadmap of a crisis Law insisted under oath last year was only vaguely familiar to him.
The reports summarize efforts to identify predatory clergy, treat the priests and their victims, compensate accusers, and track "unmet needs and trends" in the crisis.
"The material . . . was collected with the utmost attention to confidentiality," the first report, for the period July 1, 1994, to June 30, 1995, states. "The total report is not stored in any word processors."
The reports - first alluded to in Attorney General Tom Reilly's July 23 report on the church scandal - show in stark clarity the degree to which clergy sexual abuse was known to a handful of clerics and others at the chancery.
Among the striking details:
- In 1998, the archdiocese paid out more than $ 1 million of its own money to settle molestation cases that were not covered by insurance. In other years, the church's out-of-pocket costs ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Treating priests and victims also was costly, sometimes surpassing $ 300,000 in one year.
- For three years, from 1994 to 1997, the church struggled to find a safe location to house its troubled priests, settling finally in 1997 on Georgetown's Baldpate Hospital.
- Confronted with the issue of how to encourage recalcitrant problem priests to agree to laicization - the formal term for removing someone from the priesthood - a committee dealing with the abuse issue recommended the equivalent of buyouts.
"Commonly referred to as a 'golden handshake' or 'parachute,' this option might be a useful tool to bring closure to some situations that may linger for some time to come," says the report for the 12 months ending June 30, 1996.
- Between 1994 and 1998 the church held 17 meetings with the psychiatric staff of Massachusetts General Hospital chaired by Dr. Ned Cassem, a Jesuit priest who was department head. In a May deposition, Cassem did not mention the meetings and said material church officials asked him to review on alleged abusers failed to convey the depth of the problem.
So extensive was the archdiocese's grasp of the abuse problem during Law's last decade, the reports show, that the church's own clergy abuse task force was sought out for consultation by the dioceses of Burlington, Vt., and Providence, and by religious orders.
The documents are sure to revive questions about Law's candor under oath during multiple depositions in civil suits last year.
For example, Law said during a deposition released on Nov. 19 that while some priests posed a "major problem . . . I was not facing a major problem with the priesthood."
Law said during the November 2002 deposition that many matters regarding clergy abuse were handled by subordinates. He said "delegation" was a management tool.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who deposed Law last year, said: "I believe Cardinal Law in his deposition was careful, calculated and evasive in what he said - as far as how severe the problem truly was within the Archdiocese of Boston."
Law's name appears nowhere on the reports, which seem initially to have been assembled by the Rev. Brian Flatley, a personnel official.
But rules requiring the reports, promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Bishops, say diocesan bishops are responsible for them.
The reports carefully track the amount of money spent by the church on the crisis. Most costly to the archdiocese were settlements for victims, which between 1995 and 2000 totaled more than $ 21 million for 150 complainants.
About $ 13 million was recovered from insurers, the reports indicate.
The average settlement per victim rose from $ 53,000 in 1995 and 1996 to a high of $ 227,500 in 1998, before falling to $ 125,800 in 2000.
The 54 pages, covering 1994 through 2000, were filed in Suffolk Superior Court by the Greenberg Traurig law firm in the case of Gregory Ford of Newton versus Law and the archdiocese. Ford is suing for alleged abuse by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley. His lawsuit is one of a handful that were not halted by the $ 55 million settlement offer the archdiocese made on Friday.
Carmen L. Durso, a member of the five-lawyer steering panel for those talks, said of the reports, "And this from an orgnization that swears it isn't practicing secrecy?"
Susan Gallagher, a victims' rights advocate, said of the reports last night: "When people intentionally fail to keep documents on word processors, it's more evidence of a concerted conspiracy to conceal crimes against children."
Robin Washington contributed to this report.
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