Alleged Abuse Victims Weigh Settlement Offer from Diocese

The Associated Press, carried in Providence Journal [Springfield MA]
Downloaded May 25, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - The Springfield diocese has offered $7 million to settle lawsuits from 46 alleged Roman Catholic clergy abuse victims, who are now considering the offer.

Neither the diocese nor the lawyer representing the alleged victims would comment on the specifics of the ongoing mediation, but several alleged victims expressed disappointment with progress.

"Next week marks the new bishop being in office two months, and we have not reached a settlement. I expected something better by now," Thomas M. Martin, 43, of Springfield, told The Republican of Springfield. He filed suit against the diocese more than two years ago, alleging that defrocked priest Richard R. Lavigne abused him when he was a minor.

The diocese issued a brief statement stating in part:

"We remain hopeful that a settlement will be achieved, so that the healing process can continue for all involved."

The $7 million offer would mean an average settlement of $152,174 per person, excluding lawyer fees, although individual settlements would differ based on the effects of the abuse on alleged victims' lives.

When Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell was installed April 1, he said clergy abuse victims were his top priority. He called for a 45-day legal moratorium in the clergy abuse suits two weeks later so that a possible settlement could be put on a fast track. The moratorium ends this weekend.

Mediation and settlement talks have taken place with only those alleged clergy sexual abuse victims represented by Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski.

The Boston archdiocese settled with about 550 people for $85 million last year, giving individual settlements of between $80,000 and $300,000 per victim.