Lawyers Ready Claims of More Clergy Abuse
Meeting Planned on Legal Actions
By John McElhenny
May 24, 2004
Eight months after the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay a record $85 million to 541 people to settle claims of sexual abuse, lawyers for other alleged victims are preparing legal action against the embattled archdiocese.
Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso, who represented 40 victims in the $85 million settlement, said eight or nine lawyers representing 40 or 50 new clergy sexual abuse victims will meet in Boston on June 2 to discuss new legal actions.
Durso, who represents 12 alleged victims who were not part of the initial settlement, said the number of claims would rise even further when victims from the last 10 to 15 years who are still struggling to face their abuse come forward.
"There will always be another wave of people," Durso said yesterday.
Another lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, is representing more than 30 other alleged victims who were not part of the original settlement. Garabedian does not plan to attend the meeting on June 2 because of his concerns of a conflict of interest by another lawyer participating in the case.
The clergy abuse scandal has staggered the Archdiocese of Boston, which with 2 million adherents is the largest religious institution in Eastern Massachusetts. Last month, to help pay off the financial cost of sexual abuse by priests, the Archdiocese agreed to sell most of its headquarters in Brighton to neighboring Boston College for $107.4 million.
An archdiocesan spokesman said yesterday that the church's lawyers had been in close contact with those bringing the new allegations. "Our desire has been from the very beginning to settle these lawsuits as equitably and justly as possible," said the spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne.
He disputed the idea that new waves of allegations dating from the last 10 to 15 years would continue to surface because, he said, most of the allegations concerned a small number of priests who were removed long ago.
Eighty percent of the allegations in last year's settlement were against 11 priests, Coyne said.
"They were removed from parish ministry in the early to mid '80s, which means you took your major offenders out of parishes so they didn't have access to children anymore," he said. "The church took out of ministry the men who were the serial abusers."
The Boston Archdiocese agreed in September to pay $85 million to settle claims of sexual abuse. Reports of new legal actions against the archdiocese come as it prepares this week to announce the closing of parishes across the area.
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley has said repeatedly that the settlement was funded by the sale of the Brighton headquarters and insurance funds, not with money targeted for parishes.
Some of the new claims against the archdiocese surfaced last year but were not formally filed by July 30, as required under the initial settlement.
Garabedian said many victims have yet to come forward because facing their abuse can be "emotionally shredding."
"Since the abuse has taken place over the course of 50 years, I don't think anyone should expect victims to come forward only within a short span," he said. "I certainly do not see an immediate end in sight."
Garabedian, who has been a prominent voice on behalf of victims, declined to name the lawyer who he thinks may have a conflict of interest in the case. Durso, who is organizing the meeting, said he isn't concerned. All participating lawyers will be asked to confirm that they have no conflict of interest, he said.
Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman of the law firm Greenberg Traurig said he plans to attend the meeting. Newman, who handled more than 200 cases as part of the initial settlement, has another 15 cases.
But Newman said yesterday that the number of accusations against the archdiocese that are becoming public is clearly dwindling. "I don't think there are a large number of claims still out there," he said.