Diocese: Settlement Funds on Way

By Albert McKeon
Telegraph [Manchester NH]
July 18, 2003

The Diocese of Manchester has apparently made a final settlement payment to a group of alleged sexual assault victims, just weeks after a court action revealed that an insurance carrier would not cover the diocese's claim.

The diocese has paid the remaining $585,942 of a $5.02 million settlement to 62 clients of Manchester lawyer Peter Hutchins, diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said Thursday.

Hutchins and the diocese postponed a Thursday court hearing on the matter after coming to an agreement, both sides said.

"I do anticipate imminent payment," Hutchins said Wednesday.

Hutchins filed a motion earlier this month seeking immediate payment, arguing his clients did not agree to wait for the diocese to receive funds from insurance carriers. The diocese contended that it had followed its agreement with Hutchins, including its pursuit of the remainder of the settlement from its insurance carriers.

Diocesan officials and Hutchins have long spoken of their cordial relationship while negotiating settlements over the past year for alleged victims of clergy abuse. The two sides quickly came together again, only weeks after Hutchins pressed the matter in court.

"The last 10 percent is difficult to wait for," McGee said. "We've made payment on that. We're very happy to do that. It puts the final piece in place for them, and lets them move on."

McGee would not detail where the diocese obtained the money, other than to say that it did not come from parish, institutional or school funds.

A guaranty fund had denied all of the diocese's claims on policies once held with a now-bankrupt insurer, leading to the delayed payment to Hutchins' clients. But the diocese told its insurance counsel it would continue working on coverage for its claims.

Hutchins reached the settlement with the diocese last November. Hutchins' clients pay him a third of their settlement amounts, while he secures their anonymity, arranges treatment and helps them avoid testifying publicly or in a closed session with the diocese, he said.

The attorney had also filed a motion on behalf of one of the 62 clients, asking the diocese to follow through on its pledge to provide a written apology from Bishop Odore Gendron.

Hutchins had sought a court order for the apology because the diocese said it could not find Gendron, whose official residence is still St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester. Gendron led the diocese from 1975-90.

The diocese was finally able to reach Gendron, McGee said. The client, an unidentified man, has received a letter from Gendron, but he is not satisfied with the content, Hutchins said.

The man alleged the Rev. Albion Bulger sexually abused him in the 1970s. Bulger served St. Kathryn Church in Hudson and Mary Queen of Peace Church in Salem during that time, while Gendron was leading the diocese.

Bishop John McCormack has provided written apologies to many of the alleged abuse victims who have made legal settlements, and he has met personally with some of them, McGee said.


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