Diocese Says It Had "Valid Defenses" against Sex Abuse Claims
By Tim Monzingo
December 13, 2013
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont said Thursday it settled a lawsuit filed by six plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse by a priest over three decades because it was in the best interests of all involved, even though the church had "valid defenses to the claims."
The diocese attorney and the Dallas-based attorney representing the plaintiffs reached a settlement in the case Wednesday, more than a year after the suit was filed. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed at the plaintiffs' request.
The suit alleged that the Rev. Ronald Bollich abused six men, boys at the time, beginning in the mid-1970s. Bollich, who died in April 1996, worked for the diocese for about 30 years.
"At the time of the settlement, the court was considering motions on behalf of the diocese that could have resulted in the dismissal of the case," according to a statement by Cashiola and Bean, the Beaumont law firm representing the diocese in the case. "The attorney for the diocese continues to advise that we had valid defenses to all the plaintiff's claims."
Bishop Curtis J. Guillory and the diocese were named as defendants in the suit, which accused the church of conspiring "... with (Bollich) and others, including health care professionals and others known and unknown at this time to plaintiffs to conceal his abuse of minors."
Tahira Merritt, the Dallas-based lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, said by phone Wednesday the case was "hotly contested litigation."
In a statement issued by the diocese and signed by Guillory, the bishop wrote, "I believe we have acted in a responsible and amicable manner in the disposition of these allegations."
Guillory said the decision to settle the case was "the result of much prayer, consultation and reflection."
Guillory wrote he was "grateful" for the church's members who continued their work and "ministry in light of the scandal and these recent allegations."
The bishop pointed to a program implemented by the church in 2003 called "Protecting God's Children," which trains ministers and volunteers to be more aware of the signs of abuse and ways to handle allegations and report suspicions, according to the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.
Guillory said more than 7,000 adults involved with the Beaumont diocese have been through the program, and background checks are conducted on anyone - including priests and seminarians - hired or volunteering to work with the organization.
"I ask you to join me in prayer, asking God to provide healing for all victims of sexual abuse and for all of us whose lives - in any way - have been touched by this pain," the statement read.