Archdiocese Settles Sex Suits

By Eric Gorski
Denver Post [Denver CO]
January 5, 2007

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has settled clergy abuse lawsuits with 15 plaintiffs for a total of $1.58 million, the law firm representing the litigants said today.

"We are pleased with the settlements," said Adam Horowitz, an attorney in the Miami law firm Herman and Mermelstein. "Any time can give a client an opportunity to resolve something at an early stage, that's a good thing for the client."

In a statement, Archbishop Charles Chaput said he was grateful to those who had worked to achieve the settlement. "I sincerely hope that each of the..individuals who participated begin to truly heal," he said.

Last year, Chaput announced the 24-county northern Colorado diocese had hired mediator Richard Dana, a former federal judge, in an effort to reach settlements with plaintiffs who had sued the archdiocese for clergy sex abuse.

The settlements announced today do not mean the clergy abuse scandal that hit the Denver archdiocese starting in 2004 is resolved, however. At least 20 lawsuits are still pending in Denver District Court.

Today Chaput appealed to those who have yet to settle, asking that they continue to work with the mediation outreach panel, and making himself available to talk with them personally. "We will continue to try to be proactive, both spiritually and otherwise, to help anyone who has ever been hurt during his or her childhood by any member of our clergy," he said.

Four of Herman's clients declined to settle. None of the clients represented by lawyer Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., agreed to settlements. Anderson rejected the mediation process, saying the archdiocese should open its personnel files also.

The archdiocese declined to say how much money was available through mediation except to call it a "substantial sum."

News of some settlements with Herman clients has trickled out in recent months. It was unclear whether the announcement today means Dana's work is done.

The settlements range anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000 per case, the law firm said. All settlements involving allegations of sexual abuse with minor boys exceeded $100,000, it said.

Ten of the settled suits targeted the Rev. Harold Robert White, who was defrocked in 2003. White died late last year of an apparent heart attack while vacationing in Mexico. He was 73.

Among the White accusers who settled lawsuits: his godson, Delbert Nielsen, whose agreement is for $150,000. Four other White accusers are named, and the others are John Does. One is a Jane Doe - the only female to file suit accusing White.

The Denver Post reported a single allegation against White in 2004, and many more followed. At least three times, the Denver archdiocese was told of allegations against White but allowed him to serve, moving him from parish to parish for years before taking steps to remove him, according to interviews with alleged victims, one of his former superiors and church documents obtained by The Denver Post.

Five of the settled cases involve lawsuits naming the Rev. Leonard Abercrombie, who died in 1994.

The Herman law firm blamed the lack of settlements in its remaining cases primarily on the archdiocese's refusal "to voluntarily release the contents of the offending priests' personnel files..." The archdiocese has said such files are private and confidential.


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