Attorneys File Estimates on over

Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
December 21, 2002

400 priest sexual-abuse lawsuits

BOSTON [AP] As lawyers for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse submitted undisclosed estimates yesterday for how much they want the church to pay to settle more than 400 lawsuits, the personnel records of four more priests accused of abusing children were released.

Each of the approximately two dozen lawyers who represent victims drafted summaries of their claims, including a description of the alleged abuse, the years it took place, the name of the accused priest, a description of how the victim has been hurt by the abuse and a calculation of how much money they believe their clients are entitled to receive.

Lawyers for the archdiocese have until Jan. 15 to respond. If the two sides are not too far apart, the lawsuits could be sent to mediators to oversee settlements.

Victims' lawyers would not reveal what estimates they are providing to the archdiocese or say what they expect the combined estimate from all the victims might be.

Attorney Carmen Durso, who represents 35 alleged victims, said the lawyers are not submitting a dollar amount for each individual, but instead a range of amounts they are willing to negotiate for their clients as a group.

"They don't so much care how much John Smith who was victimized is asking for. What's important for them is to get a handle on the total amount that all the plaintiffs are looking for," Durso said.

The dates of the alleged abuse are important because over the years, the archdiocese had different insurance carriers who provided varying amounts of coverage.

Attorney Jeffrey Newman, whose firm represents 222 alleged victims, said the archdiocese's lawyers will likely bring the estimates to its insurance carriers to see how much they will cover.

"If the difference between the global demand [by the victims' lawyers] and the response [from the archdiocese] is not so huge or so vast that it's impossible to bridge, we'll sit down with mediators and see if we can start assessing various claims to mediate them to closure," Newman said.

The archdiocese's lead lawyer, Wilson Rogers Jr., did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

But the victims' lawyers said the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law last week and a pledge by his interim replacement, Bishop Richard Lennon, to support a settlement has given them renewed hope that the more than 400 cases can be resolved without going to trial.

"We're going into this in good faith. We're assuming they do want to settle," Durso said. "For the most part, nobody is particularly interested in going to court and getting on a witness stand and detailing the way in which they've been sexually abused."

The personnel files of four additional priests released yesterday by plaintiffs' attorneys detail allegations of sexual abuse made against them and the archdiocese's handling of them.

One priest, the Rev. David C. Murphy, who was assigned to Sts. Peter and Paul in South Boston in the 1970s, where basement rooms at the rectory were known as "Murphy's house of whores," according to handwritten notes following a November 1982 meeting between Murphy and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas V. Daily.

When asked about it by Daily, Murphy called the name "unfair" and said that "nothing untoward happened there," according to the documents.

But in a 1986 memo, a priest wrote to Bishop Robert Banks to describe a phone call from a 30-year-old homeless man, who claimed that when he went to Sts. Peter and Paul for help, Murphy gave him $200 to engage in "sadomasochistic activity," which allegedly took place "a couple of times" in Murphy's room in the rectory.

A message left at Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory in Brockton, which is listed as Murphy's current mailing address, was not immediately returned.

The file of the Rev. Raymond Plourde contains a handwritten note to Law from a former altar boy at St. Joseph's Parish in Salem who said he had a homosexual relationship with Plourde beginning at age 12. In the 1992 note, the man warned Law that "transferring sick priests does not resolve the problem."

The file shows that the man settled his complaint for $35,000 and signed a confidentiality agreement, but later wrote Plourde demanding that "pornographic pictures" taken of him be returned. The priest was moved to a parish in Newburyport and later asked to resign his post.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.