Judge Oks Disclosure Statement for Diocese Settlement

By Erin Jordan
Des Moines Register
April 2, 2008

A federal bankruptcy court judge today approved the disclosure statement to be sent to 162 victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.

The decision by Judge Lee Jackwig bodes well for overall approval of a $37 million settlement plan between abuse victims and the diocese, attorneys said.

"If the plan was patently unconfirmable, she would not have approved the disclosure statement," Hamid Rafatjoo, the Los Angeles-based attorney for the committee representing victims, said after a hearing today in Davenport.

The reorganization plan will be discussed in a confirmation hearing April 30.

The disclosure statement and reorganization plan, both inch-thick documents, will likely be mailed to victims this week, said Richard Davidson, attorney for the diocese. Victims will have until April 23 to vote on the plan before Jackwig considers approval. The plan outlines terms of the $37 million settlement and 17 nonmonetary steps the diocese would take to restore confidence and prevent further abuse.

Victims' attorneys will hold two informational sessions in the Quad Cities to help abuse victims understand the plan, Rafatjoo said.

Jackwig, who refused to approve the disclosure statement in a hearing last month, still had questions today. She asked attorneys why only four of the diocese's 83 parishes were contributing to the settlement. These four churches, St. Mary's of Iowa City, Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Anthony's of Davenport and Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf, will contribute a combined $2.9 million.

"We only have four Catholic entities expected to put money into the pot. Why not everybody?" Jackwig asked Davidson.

Davidson said these churches had the most significant assets and the largest number of claims of clergy abuse. Other churches in the diocese are also contributing by selling insurance policies back to Travelers Insurance -- which the insurance company required as part of the global agreement, Davidson said.

Mike Udhe, a sex abuse victim and co-chairman of the committee representing victims, said he was pleased with Jackwig's decision to move forward. "The faster we can get this approved and behind us, the better it will be for the 162 people involved," he said.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2006, with leaders saying it did not have enough money to settle sex abuse claims.


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