Church Could Be near Deal
Pending Sex-Abuse Settlements Said to Be in 6-Figure Range
By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News
November 4, 2006
The Archdiocese of Denver is preparing to pay six-figure settlements to some of the plaintiffs alleging clergy sex abuse, their attorney said Thursday.
Miami-based attorney Jeff Herman said "between five and 10" of his clients are close to finalizing mediation agreements for amounts "in the classical six-figure category."
But he said it was premature to give details because "there are many I's to dot and T's to cross" before the settlements are finalized.
Herman represents 19 clients suing the archdiocese in Denver District Court.
Eleven other people are represented by Minnesota-based attorney Jeffrey Anderson.
Herman said that some of his other clients will continue to refuse mediation unless the archdiocese opens all files involving sexual-abuse allegations.
Last May, Archbishop Charles Chaput offered a mediation process to the 30 plaintiffs suing over alleged abuse incidents involving a now-deceased priest, Leonard Abercrombie, and Harold Robert White, who has been defrocked.
Abercrombie died in 1994.
Retired Judge Richard Dana has headed the independent, three-person mediation committee.
More settlements are in the works, said Jeanette DeMelo, the archdiocese's communications director.
"There isn't more we can say about it," she said. "We trust in the process and see it as being successful."
But Barbara Blaine, the Chicago-based national president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the confidential mediation process "almost insulting."
She was in Denver on Thursday with several victims-rights activists to call for opening of all church personnel files related to sex-abuse allegations.
"Our concern is that by Archbishop Chaput establishing this mediation process, all information remains secret," she said.
Anderson said that a client who tried mediation rejected the settlement offer.
Anderson called mediation "not helpful to those who need help; actually, it's a sham."
Said DeMelo, "The point is people have been participating and I think we should respect that.
"They certainly don't think it's a sham."
DeMelo said personnel documents won't be released.
"This claim there are pedophiles out there is simply false," she said.
"Files won't be released. These are personnel files, and individuals have the right to privacy in those files."
She said the archdiocese regularly asks anyone to come forward if they have allegations of sex abuse.
A sex-abuse policy in place since 1991 requires the archdiocese to take any credible claim to appropriate law enforcement.
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