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  Diocese Criticizes New Suits
Lawyer Says He Never Indicated Legal Action Done

By Ed Housewright
The Dallas Morning News
November 6, 1998

The Dallas Catholic Diocese on Thursday criticized two more sex-abuse lawsuits filed by the attorney who reached a record settlement in several similar suits against the diocese this summer.

The diocese is "surprised and disappointed" by the suits filed by Windle Turley because "the Church negotiated in good faith" to settle the other suits involving former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, according to a church press release.

Mr. Turley indicated during mediation that he had no other lawsuits against the diocese, the release said. In addition, the diocese is unable to make loan payments to cover its share of the $ 23.4 million settlement reached in July, it said.

Mr. Turley responded that he never promised not to file more lawsuits against the diocese.

"The Diocese seems to be under the mistaken impression that other victims of abuse were somehow settled out when the initial Plaintiffs settled their case," Mr. Turley said in a written statement. "This, of course, is not true."

Both lawsuits, filed last Friday, name the diocese as a defendant, saying it failed to protect the plaintiffs from sexual abuse. One, filed on behalf of two Ellis County men, also names Mr. Kos. The other, on behalf of a Dallas County man, names former priest Robert Peebles.

"These three victims, all of who have been known to the Diocese for years, have every right to assert their own injury claims just as they have done," Mr. Turley's statement said. "During these years the Diocese never took the initiative to deal with their injuries.

"It is truly unfortunate that the Diocese . . . will not face up to the reality that it has more victims in need of care and counseling. The Diocesan attitude makes the Bishops apology ring hollow."

Mr. Turley said he will "continue to represent victims of institutional abuse in spite of the Diocese's personal attacks" on him.

In July, the diocese and Mr. Turley reached a $ 23.4 million settlement of sex-abuse claims against Mr. Kos by nine young men. They alleged that they had been sexually abused from 1981 to 1992 by Mr. Kos at churches in Dallas, Irving and Ennis.

The settlement resulted from a civil jury award of $ 119.6 million to the plaintiffs last year in the largest clergy-abuse judgment in history. With interest, the judgment grew to about $ 175 million before the settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, the diocese will pay $ 7.25 million, and four insurers will pay the rest.

In February, the diocese reached a $ 5 million settlement of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by two former priests who served at the same time as Mr. Kos. The diocese's share is $ 1.1 million. One of those priests was Mr. Peebles, a defendant in the most recent suit.

The diocese said it had not seen copies of the two newest suits.

"The lawsuits have been presented without offering the diocese any factual information about the allegations, even though the diocesan attorneys have repeatedly requested it," diocesan spokeswoman Lisa LeMaster said in the press release.

The church has asked its insurance companies to work with Mr. Turley to "resolve these issues," Ms. LeMaster said. "Our prayers continue to be with all victims of abuse. Our hope has been that this terrible chapter in our history could be brought to an end."

The diocese can't make its loan payments on the Kos settlement because it has been unable to sell some property, the press release said.

Diocesan officials have wanted to sell the St. Ann's school site in the old Little Mexico community on Harry Hines Boulevard. But the prospect of historic designation has decreased the property's value and scared off potential buyers, church officials have said.

A community group has sought historic designation to save the building, and it offered the diocese $ 900,000 for the property. A developer had offered $ 4 million but withdrew the offer because historic designation would limit use of the property, church officials said.

 
 

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