Boston Archdiocese: No Talks on New Wave of Sex Abuse Claims

The Associated Press, carried in Telegram & Gazette [Boston MA]
September 12, 2004

BOSTON- The Archdiocese of Boston, which has already paid millions to settle claims of sex abuse by priests, is facing at least 140 more claims and it can't afford to settle them, a church spokesman said, in part because it has been unable to get insurance payments to cover the first settlement.

"We've been letting the lawyers know that we would not be moving forward with negotiations until we have settled with our insurance carriers," said Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

One lawyer said he was unmoved by the church's statements and believed the church had plenty of resources to settle the claims.

"They always seem to have an excuse," said Mitchell Garabedian, one of the driving forces in the first wave of claims. "I'm just preparing for trial."

The archdiocese reached an $85 million settlement last year of 541 sexual abuse claims. If the new claims were settled at a similar rate, the bill could be in the range of $20 million, legal analysts told the Globe.

Coyne said it was too early to comment on how much money the new claims might cost the archdiocese.

The new claims involve charges against priests for incidents that happened from the 1950s to the 1980s. Of the priests named, only one didn't feature in the first wave of claims. That priest's name was not available, Coyne said.

The church borrowed the money used to settle cases last December and since then has sold the cardinal's residence and surrounding land in Boston for $107 million. It has also designated 82 parishes for closure as part of a cost-cutting effort and realignment.

But Coyne said none of the money raised would be used to settle sex abuse claims.

"Our intention is that the money used to pay the settlements should come from the insurance sources, not the pastoral sources," he said. "All of our effort is to settle the actions we've taken against our insurers."

The archdiocese's attorney, Thomas H. Hannigan Jr., declined to be interviewed by the newspaper.

But lawyers said the church's legal effort to recoup money from the insurers is still at a relatively early stage and it was uncertain how long it would take.

Hannigan sued - and prevailed over - insurers to cover a reported $5 million settlement that Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley reached with sex abuse victims of defrocked priest James Porter when O'Malley was bishop of Fall River in the 1990s.

Carmen Durso, one of about a dozen lawyers who represent people in the second wave of claims, said many came forward after the first settlement because they believed they would be treated fairly and compassionately by O'Malley.

"They felt it was safe to come forward now," Durso said. "They felt that O'Malley said the right things, that they'd be treated OK. O'Malley's demeanor was certainly a plus in people coming forward."

More alleged victims are also coming forward in western Massachusetts. In July, the Diocese of Springfield settled for $7.5 million with 45 sex abuse victims. But one lawyer said he was looking into the allegations of as many as 15 people, while another said he represented 10 people with outstanding claims agains the diocese.

Garabedian said new claims could arise for years.

"These are the results of the wholesale molestation of children over a period of 50 years or more. It would be naive to think that this would culminate in five or six years. It occurred over decades; it will come out over decades," he said.


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