|Chicago Archdiocese Report Shows Race Didn't Play Factor in Abuse Settlements
Church Reacts to Ch. 5 News Segment Featuring Victims Alleging Discrimination
By Manya A. Brachear
November 21, 2009
Still reeling from a television news segment alleging racial discrimination in the settlement process for victims of clergy sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago unveiled a report on Friday showing no evidence of such discrimination. The archdiocese's report produced by Chicago law firm Pugh, Jones, Johnson & Quandt, found that the average settlement for African-American claimants is more than 28 percent higher than settlements with white claimants; 19 percent higher than the average.
"It has never been an archdiocesan practice to compile statistics about abuse claims based on race or ethnicity," the archdiocese said in a statement. "However, it felt compelled to do so when these allegations were made."
The television news report, which featured Seattle attorney Phillip Aaron and some of his clients, aired on WMAQ-Ch. 5 in August as the preview of an upcoming class-action lawsuit. Interviewees alleged they received lower monetary settlements than white claimants and that African-American claimants were badgered during the review process and offered no counseling services. The same allegations aired 10 days later on WPWR-Ch. 50.
The archdiocese's report concluded that therapy was offered to all victims who settled with the archdiocese. It also found that there was no evidence of minority victims being mistreated in the settlement process.
It noted that many of Aaron's clients alleged abuse by the Rev. Terence Fitzmaurice, a Benedictine priest. It also noted that Aaron's other clients alleged abuse by Victor Stewart, the cleric with the most accusations and settled claims against him. Those cases drew higher scrutiny because of their frequency and unusual patterns, the report said, but the focus did not have anything to do with race.
To date, the suit that was the subject of the TV report in August has not been filed.
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