|Priest Abuse Settlement to Include Apologies
By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City Star
August 23, 2008
A $10 million settlement with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph includes commitments for apologies, counseling and a promise not to refer to plaintiffs' abuse claims as "alleged."
Two diocese boards Thursday night approved the settlement with 47 plaintiffs who filed sexual abuse lawsuits.
On Friday, lawyers for the victims outlined 19 non-monetary commitments by the diocese.
"These are the most far-reaching, non-monetary commitments that have ever been negotiated between a diocese and victims of childhood sexual abuse in the United States," said Rebecca Randles, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
They include promises to:
•Continue to pay counseling for victims and their immediate families, up to 24 sessions.
•Refuse to give a job reference to any priest or other diocese employee who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
If any of the sued priests seeks a reference, the diocese must refer the inquiring people to the lawsuits.
•Provide a letter to state licensing boards that one of the priests, Thomas J. Reardon, has been sued for sexual abuse.
Reardon was for a time a counselor after leaving the priesthood.
•Direct the bishop to send a letter to any plaintiff or plaintiff's family who asks for one apologizing for the abuse and acknowledging that the victim was not at fault.
•Post a placard in each diocese school stating: "The abuse of the spiritual, emotional and moral development of young men and women shall not be tolerated."
The placard will include the phone numbers of sexual abuse hot lines and police.
Rebecca Summers, diocese spokeswoman, said the Board of Consulters and the Diocese Finance Council affirmed the agreement.
Bishop Robert W. Finn said earlier that he would sign the agreement once the two boards acted. Plaintiffs have also signed it.
Twelve priests were accused in suits of abusing the plaintiffs as children, mostly between the 1950s and early 1980s. The suits were filed beginning in 2002 in Jackson County. An arbiter will determine how much each plaintiff will receive, after about 40 percent is taken out for legal fees.
Most of the priests have left the priesthood or were stripped of church-related duties years ago. None of them has admitted abuses publicly, and some have denied them.
The priests accused in the suits were, in addition to Reardon, retired Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart, John Tulipana, Thomas J. Ward, Earl Johnson, Stephen Wise, Francis E. McGlynn, Hugh F. Monahan, John C. Baskett, Thomas J. O'Brien, James Lawbaugh and Sylvester Hoppe.
Finn apologized for the abuses Wednesday and acknowledged they were wrong. That acknowledgment was included in the 19 non-monetary stipulations of the settlement.
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