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  Investigation Found No Evidence Sex Abuse Claim Is True, Bishop Says

By John K. Wiley
The Associated Press, carried in The Seattle Times
June 8, 2006

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003049243_webbishop08.html

Spokane, Wash. Catholic Bishop William Skylstad said Thursday that his own investigation found no evidence to support a woman's claim that he sexually abused her 40 years ago.

Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has vehemently denied the accusation, raised in March by an unidentified woman as a claim in the diocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

A private investigator was hired by Skylstad's lawyer to check the woman's story that she was abused as a girl when he was a priest in Spokane in the early 1960s. The recently concluded investigation found no proof to back the woman's claim, Skylstad told reporters.

"There was nothing in any way that came up with any evidence about the veracity of the claim," Skylstad said, adding that he could not elaborate.

Little is known about the woman, but bankruptcy court records indicate she now lives in Europe. It was not known if she is represented by a lawyer.

Skylstad made his remarks during a news conference to announce that the diocese has reached a settlement with yet another insurance company that provided coverage for clergy sex abuse claims.

Pending approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Oregon Automobile Insurance Co. has agreed to pay the diocese a total of $6 million to settle litigation over whether the company is obligated to pay to cover claims of clergy sexual abuse.

Oregon Auto issued policies to the diocese from 1972-1976.

The company was purchased by Liberty Northwest. Spokeswoman Beth Shia did not immediately return a call to her Portland, Ore., office Thursday.

The proposed settlement brings to $16 million the amount the diocese will receive from its previous insurance carriers. The diocese is still feuding with two former carriers and a trial is scheduled for the fall.

Skylstad and lawyers representing the diocese said the insurance money eventually will go toward payments to victims of clergy sex abuse.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004, citing about $81.3 million in claims by abuse victims against assets of about $11 million.

Shaun Cross, a lawyer representing the diocese, said the latest proposed settlement, in addition to other resources and diocese assets, gives the diocese between $31 million and $33 million for the victim settlement pool, without touching any assets of individual parishes.

Skylstad has offered 75 of the claimants a total of $45.7 million, but a bankruptcy judge said any proposed settlement must cover all legitimate claimants, estimated to be about 120.

 
 

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