Abuse Claimants Awaiting Response from Diocese

By Bill Zajac
The Springfield Republican
August 10, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Now that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is settling clergy sexual abuse claims with 45 claimants represented by one lawyer, a group of lawyers and their clients are lining up at the diocese's door ready to discuss their claims.

At least five lawyers representing at least 20 clients who have made allegations of sexual abuse against priests are waiting to hear from diocesan officials regarding how their claims will be addressed by the diocese.

This will not be the end of clergy sexual abuse claims here, according to one of the lawyers.

"As terrible as this seems, we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg," said Carmen L. Durso, a Boston lawyer who represents 15 of the clients.

Durso said 200 or so people have brought claims against the Archdiocese of Boston since the church settled more than 500 claims a year ago.

Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski, whose 45 clients are in the process of settling claims with the diocese, recently said he has another group of clients who are considering making claims against the diocese.

Meanwhile, diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont said yesterday the diocese hasn't decided whether it will mediate outstanding claims as it did recently with Stobierski's clients.

"The bishop intends to proceed until this settlement is complete, and then he will decide what will be done on the other claims," Dupont said.

Paul A. Finn, the Boston-based mediator who helped settle more than 500 suits in the Archdiocese of Boston, mediated an estimated $7.5 million settlement with the largest group of Springfield diocesan claimants. The agreement was announced almost three weeks ago.

Forty-five of Stobierski's 46 clients accepted the agreement and are involved in a binding arbitration to decide the exact amount of each individual's settlement. It will be based on the effects of the abuse, the nature of the abuse and the duration of it.

Payment of their claims will be made by the end of this month.

Francis Babeu, the one client who opted out of the settlement, intends to take the diocese to court in an attempt to expose what he believes is a cover-up of the abuse by church leaders.

Durso said diocesan lawyer John Egan told him recently the diocese would enter into settlement talks with other claimants' lawyers.

Springfield lawyer Daniel M. Kelly said he hopes the diocese is willing to have his one client's claim mediated in the same way claims by Stobierski's clients were mediated.

Kelly expressed a concern that the diocese might decide the recent settlement capped all claims against the diocese.

It is unclear if Boston lawyer Roderick MacLeish is poised to enter into settlement or mediation talks with the diocese. MacLeish represents two men alleging that former bishop Thomas L. Dupre abused them as minors more than 20 years ago. MacLeish was not available for comment yesterday.

A grand jury is still considering criminal charges against Dupre regarding the allegations of abuse, obstruction of justice and other charges.

Other lawyers with clients who have clergy sexual abuse claims against the diocese include Springfield lawyer Raipher D. Pellegrino and Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. One claimant will represent himself.

A grand jury is still considering criminal charges against Dupre regarding the allegations of abuse, obstruction of justice and other charges.


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