Activists: Church Settlement Inadequate
By Marie Szaniszlo
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
December 22, 2003
A day after 541 people who said they were abused by priests learned how much compensation they will receive from the Archdiocese of Boston, a group of victims' advocates yesterday urged lawyers for both sides to go back to the bargaining table and close a series of loopholes in the settlement.
"Just because (the plaintiffs) got cash doesn't mean their mental health is restored," Paul Baier said outside the office of Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for 120 of the plaintiffs. "The lawyers didn't have any monetary incentive to make sure this was in the agreement."
Baier and other members of Survivors First called for a four-point addendum to the $85 million settlement, including a written guarantee of lifetime reimbursement for therapy by a licensed therapist. Instead, the agreement says plaintiffs will be "eligible to participate in the continued therapy and healing program" offered by the church.
Survivors First also called for an admission of guilt and an apology by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley to each plaintiff; full disclosure about priests accused of sexual abuse, their whereabouts and the archbishop's plans for them; and independent oversight, as called for by state Attorney General Tom Reilly. Right now, a board of lay people and one priest performs this function.
Garabedian, one of a battery of lawyers who will collect legal fees and costs equal to roughly one-third of their clients' compensation, said the agreement had been finalized and could not be changed.
"I tried to obtain as much benefit for the victims as possible," he said, "and I will continue to represent my clients in order that they receive therapy in the future."
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said it had already addressed Survivors First's concerns.
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