Panel Expects As Many As 80 Compensation Claims for Clergy Sex Abuse
By John Nolan
Associated Press [Cincinnati OH]
August 30, 2004
CINCINNATI - Lawyers administering a $3 million fund created to compensate people who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests are expecting up to 80 claims to be submitted by the filing deadline Wednesday.
A three-member tribunal plans to decide by the end of the year which claims will be paid, said Robert Stachler, a lawyer who is chairman of the tribunal.
Stachler said he expected that many of those who submit claims were waiting as long as they could to see first whether lawsuits they filed against priests or the Archdiocese of Cincinnati would progress in the courts. They have to drop their lawsuits before applying for compensation.
Some of the lawsuits were dismissed because the alleged abuse happened too long ago for the courts to have jurisdiction. Those rulings are on appeal. Some victims have said they were abused as far back as the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Matthew Garretson, a lawyer hired to assist the tribunal in examining the compensation claims, said Monday he had received about 40 claims in the past three days.
The archdiocese agreed to establish the fund as part of a settlement last year with Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen to end his investigation of whether crimes were committed involving sex abuse by clergy. In November the archdiocese pleaded no contest to failing to report crimes and was fined $10,000. The 19-county archdiocese serves about 515,000 Catholics.
The tribunal is independent of the prosecutor's office and the church and will make the decisions on compensation, Stachler said.
Submitting claims to the tribunal is a gentler process for victims than fighting over lawsuits in court, Garretson said.
"It's a nonadversarial route, and it gives them a chance to have their stories heard," said Garretson, who evaluated claims submitted to a $25.7 million settlement fund for people who sued the Diocese of Louisville, Ky., over claims of abuse by priests.
In February, the Cincinnati archdiocese reported that it knew of 188 reported instances of abuse by 49 of its priests between 1950 and last year. The archdiocese released its findings as part of a report from Catholic bishops nationwide.
Christy Miller, who says a priest sexually abused her in the 1980s while she was a high school student, said Monday she believes that as many as several hundred other victims haven't come forward publicly. Many are unable to overcome the psychological trauma of abuse to go public, said Miller, leader of a southwest Ohio chapter of the support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Miller said she is pursuing her lawsuit against the archdiocese in an effort to prevent future sex abuse by clergy. She said she knows of 11 people who are dropping lawsuits in order to apply to the fund.
"Whether people seek justice through the courts or whether they seek compensation through the fund, we applaud these people for coming forward," Miller said.
ON THE NET
Settlement fund: http://www.thesettlementfund.com
Settennati archdiocese: http://www.catholiccincinnati.org
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