Talks Begin, Settlement Could Bankrupt Catholic Diocese

KXLY [Spokane WA]
Downloaded November 3, 2004

Settlement talks began today which could shape the future of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

28 people claiming a former Spokane priest sexually abused them are seeking millions in damages from the diocese.

Now attorneys on both sides are working in Seattle all week, hoping for a settlement out of court. The Bishop has alerted thousands of Catholics in our area that, depending upon the outcome of these negotiations, the diocese might have to file for bankruptcy.

An attorney for the sex abuse victims told me today they are going into these negotiations with no expectations, but they are preparing for trial.

While the Bishop is declining interviews until after these talks are over, he did enclose select answers regarding the chapter 11 choice in his letter.

Last year the Bishop said bankruptcy wasn't an option, this year he says much has changed: "..first additional lawsuits have been filed in the past year with very large compensation demands.." newsfour calculates combined plaintiffs are seeking more then 70-million dollars in damages.

The Bishop also indicates insurance options are running dry.

As for what Chapter 11 could mean for parishioners. The Bishop says..."we expect parishes and schools .... will continue to operate as usual." adding later: "one of the primary goals of a chapter 11 reorganization process would be to protect the assets of the parishes."

In the letter, the Bishop also confirms his intention to seek the presidency of the US conference of Catholic Bishops. Currently he serves as vice president, if elected president later this month, he would become one of the most powerful men in the US church. Victim's advocacy groups are opposing his election, saying his reaction to the sex abuse scandal here has been morally bankrupt.


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