Ad Seeks Victims of Priest Abuse
Spurred by Class-Action Suit Vs. Covington Diocese
By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer [Burlington KY]
October 28, 2003
BURLINGTON - An ad set to appear in USA Today this week urges anyone abused by a priest serving in the Diocese of Covington since 1956 to come forward.
The advertisement - and similar ones scheduled to appear in Kentucky and Ohio newspapers - is the first of its kind in the nation, said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who has tracked similar litigation for 20 years.
Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger is overseeing the nation's first class-action suit against a Roman Catholic diocese.
"The legal purpose of the advertisements is to give victims the opportunity to opt out of the class-action suit," said Bob Steinberg, an attorney representing the alleged victims.
"It also gives any victim we do not know about the opportunity to confidentially come to us."
The church has acknowledged that 158 people have been abused in the Covington Diocese by 30 priests since 1953.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs have claimed the true number of victims is more like 500 to 1,000.
"One of the principal problems with cases like this is getting victims to come forward," said Peter Isely of Milwaukee, a regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "Coming forward is the last thing many survivors want to do."
Isely said his group has placed advertisements of its own in Roman Catholic publications, urging alleged victims to come forward.
Before 1988, the Covington Diocese included 57 of the state's 102 counties, covering central and eastern Kentucky. The diocese is now much smaller; it currently spans 14 counties and serves 89,000 parishioners.
The ad includes a clip-out form people must fill out if they decide to opt out of the class-action suit. All alleged victims are included in the suit unless they opt out.
Attorneys didn't release the cost of the ad, but a standard black-and-white, half-page advertisement in the USA Today sells for up to $58,000, while a full-page advertisement can cost nearly $90,000.
"Treating these types of claims like they are 'coupon cases' is not the best way to proceed," said Anderson, who has represented some 700 alleged victims from Los Angeles to Cincinnati.
"I'm always pleased to see victims getting some kind of justice, but in my opinion, a class-action suit is not the best way to ... heal the survivors."
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