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  Archdiocese Settles 15 Sex Abuse Claims for $8 Million

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [Cincinnati OH]
October 3, 2003

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay 15 men and women more than $8 million to settle their claims of sexual abuse at the hands of a dozen Chicago priests.

In the settlement announced Thursday of the abuse claims that date from 1954 to the early 1990s, archdiocesan officials also agreed:

*To fund an annual conference for victims of sexual abuse for the next five years.

*To post the name of any new priest removed from ministry because of sexual abuse allegations on its official Web site for 30 days.

*To establish -- either online or by phone -- a process where anyone can check to see if a certain priest has had substantiated allegations of abuse made against him.

That inquiry process, which will also provide the status of ministry and location (if known) of any accused priest, is expected to be in place no later than Jan. 15, 2004, said Jeffrey Anderson, an attorney for the 15 victims who settled their abuse claims this week after nearly nine months of mediation with the archdiocese.

Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has sued more than half of the dioceses in the United States over sexual abuse cases, also represented four other victims who settled their abuse claims with the archdiocese last month for more than $4 million. Those victims, who all claim to have been abused by Vincent McCaffrey, a former archdiocese priest who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for possession of child pornography, also had been part of the mediation process with the archdiocese, he said.

In July, the archdiocese agreed to pay another McCaffrey victim who had not been part of the mediation $1.9 million to settle his claim. It is believed to be the largest payment to one victim made by the Chicago Archdiocese.

Thirty-six priests from the Chicago Archdiocese have had substantiated allegations of abuse made against them in the last 40 years, according to archdiocesan officials, who have refused to release a complete list of the priests' names. The 36 do not include religious-order priests who have been accused of abuse.

"We will respond to any inquiry about any priest who has been a priest in the archdiocese at any time about whether there has been a substantiated allegation of abuse, but . . . we will not publish a list of every priest who has had an allegation of misconduct," said Jimmy Lago, the archdiocese's chancellor.

Cardinal Francis George has said repeatedly he does not believe it would be right to release a complete list because it would include priests who have died and cannot defend themselves. George has offered to meet with all 15 of the victims involved in this week's settlement.

The 12 priests against whom claims of abuse were settled this week are McCaffrey, Robert Becker, Daniel Buck, William J. Cloutier, James J. Hagan, Walter Huppenbauer, John "Jack" Keough, Joseph P. Kissane, Norbert Maday, Kenneth Ruge, Raymond Skriba, and Marion Snieg.

The 15 men and women who settled their claims with the archdiocese this week range in age from 30 to 62, and were between the ages of 8 and 18 when the abuse took place, Anderson said. Six of the victims, all men, flanked their attorney at a news conference at a Chicago hotel.

"I really had hoped that once it was all settled, I would feel a lot better, and I'm realizing I really don't feel as good as I thought I would," said Tim Guillen, 35, of Chicago, who says he was abused by Hagan at St. Richard parish on the Southwest Side for six or seven years beginning in about 1982.

"Nothing representatives of the archdiocese do today can make up for the abuse inflicted on victims," Lago said. "We at the archdiocese extend a sincere apology to the survivors involved in these settlements and, indeed, to all survivors, their families and communities."

Anderson called the settlement a breakthrough.

"This process that they've engaged in with these courageous survivors is a model, a model that we invite every bishop and every superior of every [religious] order to follow," he said. "If Cardinal George and the archdiocese can do this and bring this to resolution in nine months, I say shame on every other bishop that doesn't try to do this and begin the helping and healing instead of the hurting and hiding."

 
 

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