Abuse Scandal Not over Yet

The Albany Herald [Oregon]
July 8, 2004

Imagine the hushed comments behind closed doors 20, 30 and 40 years ago. "Everything will be just fine if we deal with it quietly and transfer him to another position. We can't afford to let this become public."

Across the nation, we now know, Catholic dioceses were dealing with complaints of sexual abuse in this manner. They kept it hidden and quiet. Consideration of the accusers was suppressed beneath the overriding concern for the alleged abuser.

Now, more than one diocese is saying bankruptcy is a possibility. This week, the Portland Archdiocese in Oregon announced that the potential cost of claims in lawsuits filed by accusers is beyond the church's ability to pay, even with insurance.

The Portland archdiocese is dealing with a civil lawsuit stemming from accusations of more than 50 boys who say they were molested in the 1980s by a priest, who died two years ago. They seek a total of more than $160 million.

Church officials in Portland say they already have paid more than $53 million to accusers who say they were abused by other priests. Dozens more claims are pending. Consequently, there isn't enough money to pay the amount sought by the 50 alleged victims of the late Rev. Maurice Grammond, the officials said this week.

The Tucson diocese also is considering filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy action and plans to make a decision by September. The Boston Archdiocese chose to sell millions of dollars worth of property to settle claims of sexual abuse instead of taking the bankruptcy route. And in Santa Fe, the church borrowed millions of dollars against its savings in order to settle sex abuse claims.

One reason a diocese would be reluctant to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that while the church would be given protection from creditors while it reorganized, records and letters they never thought might become public would do just that.

Only in the last 18 months has the Catholic church begun to admit the problem it's covered up for 50 years. The financial toll, estimated nationwide at $650 million since 1950, hasn't fully hit the church.

While plaintiffs often seek big monetary damages, their motivation must surely be steeped in their anger with church leaders for their cover-ups. One plaintiff in Oregon said, "We will continue our fight to finally get the archdiocese to accept the sin of its crimes."

An admission, please. Just admit you were wrong and how wrong you were, is what plaintiffs want.

Church leaders who kept the lid on the abuse complaints through the years, thus allowing the perpetrators to continue their criminal behavior, aren't the ones, in many cases, having to deal with the situations now. Their successors are cleaning up. The cost is beyond money. The damage to many dioceses will last far into the future.

The church, which is suppose to be about saving souls, helping the needy and comforting the afflicted, has instead become a victim through its own actions.


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