|NH Diocese Will
Pay $5 Million to 62 Victims
By Mark Hayward
November 27, 2002
The Catholic Diocese of Manchester will pay more than $5 million to 62 people who claimed they were abused by priests and other church workers as minors, church officials announced yesterday.
The incidents took place as long ago as the 1950s and as recently as the 1980s and involved 28 priests, two lay workers and one member of a religious order, the diocese said in a release.
The diocese disclosed the names of all the priests and lay workers except three, which the reported victims wanted to be kept confidential, diocesan officials said.
“None of these men will exercise any pastoral ministries in the church ever again,” said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, delegate of the Bishop for Sexual Misconduct, in a news conference.
Manchester attorney Peter Hutchins, who represented the 62 people, said no one will receive more than $500,000 and the median settlement was $41,250.
A former House speaker who sits on a diocesan task force reviewing the policy praised the settlement.
“It shows good faith on the part of the diocese that victims of abuse will be treated and that their needs will be met,” said Donna Sytek, chairman of the Diocesan Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy.
“Compare that with what is going on in Boston,” she said in a telephone interview.
But an activist Catholic who has called for the resignation of Bishop John B. McCormack said the settlement allows the church hierarchy to keep secrets internal.
Questions regarding the number of incidents per perpetrator, internal investigations, coverups and transfers remain undisclosed, said Somersworth resident James Farrell.
“These are the kind of things we may never find out now as a result of the settlement,” Farrell said.
The diocese did not make any requests for confidentiality in the settlement, officials stressed.
But at the request of Hutchins’ clients, the diocese will not disclose their names, the details of the abuse or the amounts of individual settlements.
The diocese said that the identities of the accusers has been offered to the priests and lay workers who are alive.
The $5,074,000 settlement breaks down three ways:
- $2,174,000 comes from unrestricted savings of the diocese. The savings accumulated from investment returns and unrestricted gifts to the bishop.
- $2 million comes from insurance carriers.
- $900,000 was drawn from the diocesan insurance fund.
Officials stressed that no funds of parishes, schools or institutions such as New Hampshire Catholic Charities were spent on the settlement. Parishes and parish-run schools contribute less than 1 percent of their annual income to the diocesan insurance fund.
Arsenault said he hopes the settlement will help the church restore the confidence and trust in church leadership.
“While we are using the limited funds available to the diocese, we must remember that we are doing so in an effort to help people turn to the Lord and to be healed,” Arsenault said.
Hutchins said he represents four others making claims against the diocese, which he expects will soon be settled. A fifth involves a religious order.
He said all the cases involved some form of physical contact, ranging from touching over clothes to multiple acts of sodomy.
He praised the Manchester Diocese for its cooperation and said it has taken a leadership role in dealing with sexual abuse complaints.
During settlement negotiations, diocesan officials did not press for details such as dates and allegations for every claim, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hutchins said.
Hutchins would not disclose his fee and said he was offended to be asked such a question.
“I had a pretty good practice before this started. There are a heck of a lot easier ways to make a buck,” he said, “than to sue your church.”
Dan Wise, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Bar Association, said lawyers typically take personal injury cases on a one-third contingency basis.
Hutchins said the diocese has “absolutely acknowledged that the people were abused.”
Arsenault referred to a three-paragraph statement when asked if the diocese admits to the allegations.
The statement uses phrases such as “reported incidents,” “people who reported being abused,” “complainants” and “persons accused of misconduct.”
Church spokesman Patrick McGee said the settlement shows that the church recognizes people were harmed and is taking steps to repair their relationship with the church.
But he stressed that “the harm caused by these people was from individual actions.”
“(McCormack) is sorry that these people have been harmed, there’s no question about it,” McGee said.
Hutchins said about a third of his clients want to repair their relationship with the church, a third want nothing to do with the church and the rest are in a gray area.
Many plan to give most, if not all, of their settlement money away, Hutchins said. Some are eyeing organizations that protect children against sexual abuse. One wants to contribute to Catholic Charities.
He said the settlements will allow his clients to take time off and relax in a vacation spot if they desire.
Hutchins is the second of three lawyers who have made claims against the church in the priest sex-abuse scandal to settle.
Last month, Concord lawyer Charles Douglas III engineered a $950,000 settlement for 16 men.
Meanwhile, lawyer Mark Abramson broke off talks with the church on behalf of about 60 alleged victims in September. Abramson, who is preparing for trial, blamed the breakdown on a lack of cooperation from the diocese.
The diocese disclosed the names of all the priests involved in the settlement, grouped by their status at the time allegations were received:
- Active ministry — Aime Boisselle, Ronald Corriveau, Alfred Jannetta
and a confidential subject.
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