Archdiocese Settles Claims of Abuse for $2 Million

By Cheryl Wittenauer
The Associated Press
August 27, 2004

ST. LOUIS — The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday that it would pay $2 million to settle 18 civil claims of sexual abuse and planned to mediate 16 other cases.

About a third of the $2 million — involving allegations against five priests and a nun, who is now deceased — will be paid by insurance, and the rest will come from general reserves, said Bernard Huger, attorney for the archdiocese.

Negotiations between attorneys for the archdiocese and the plaintiffs began in February with the help of professional mediators. The goal was to “resolve this thing expeditiously with as little controversy as possible, and without the adversity of a courtroom,” Huger said.

With the help of arbitration professionals, each case wound its way through the process, with input from accusers, families, doctors and therapists. An archdiocesan review committee heard each story and assessed its credibility.

Huger noted that the statute of limitations had run out on most of the cases. But Ken Chackes, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said some victims did not realize they had been abused until much later, in part because the archdiocese covered up the abuse.

The parties could not settle on three additional cases, which now are among the 16 that the archdiocese hopes to settle, Huger said. Chackes said there probably would be more claims.

Varying, undisclosed amounts were awarded to each plaintiff.

The $2 million is separate from more than $1.6 million paid in June to a St. Louis family claiming that the Rev. Gary Wolken, who is now in prison, had sexually abused their son. In all, since 1994, the archdiocese has paid $5 million in sexual abuse settlements.

As part of the settlement, the archdiocese agreed to educate children about what is appropriate physical contact and to educate employees about recognizing child sexual abuse.


First glance

• Eighteen claims of sexual abuse against the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be settled for a total of $2 million, the archdiocese announces.

• The archdiocese has paid a total of $5 million since 1994 to settle sexual abuse claims.


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