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  Peoria Diocese Settles Lawsuits

By Jim Stahly Jr.
Pantagraph [Bloomington IL]
April 10, 1999

Peoria — The Catholic Diocese of Peoria settled two lawsuits Friday that sought more than $5.3 million from the church and a former Logan County priest.

Thirteen former altar boys - all but one of them now in their 30s - claim they were molested over a period of time dating to 1970 by the Rev. Norman Goodman.

They also claimed the Peoria Diocese had been notified of the alleged abuse but had failed to act.

Those complaints formed the basis of two lawsuits filed in August 1998 in Peoria County Circuit Court, one from the 12 older plaintiffs and another from the younger alleged victim and his parents. That, in turn, prompted a suit in Logan County by the carriers of Goodman's liability insurance policies, claiming their policies would not cover his defense or penalties for his alleged wrongdoing.

In announcing the undisclosed settlement, a diocese press release did not address a position on Goodman's innocence or guilt. Rather, it said it hoped the resolution "will bring an end to the prospect of several years of continuing pain within the church and community."

It did say, however, that the settlement does not affect Goodman's part of the suit.

"Monsignor Goodman has denied and continues to deny these allegations and is not a party to this settlement. The plaintiffs maintain the truthfulness of their allegations," the release said.

Diocese officials did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment, nor did Drew Parker, Goodman's attorney. A receptionist at attorney Frederic Nessler's Lincoln office said Nessler, who is representing the 13 unnamed accusers, was not available.

"No he's not and we have no comment," she said.

One longtime Goodman supporter, however, expressed disbelief that a diocese that had publicly supported the monsignor's claims of innocence would give in to financial demands.

"I would be surprised and there would be a lot of people upset over this," said Pete Andrews of Lincoln.

Andrews, a former mayor and head of an unofficial group of Goodman supporters, recalled Logan County State's Attorney William Workman's findings after an investigation by state police that there was not enough evidence to charge Goodman in connection with the one alleged incident at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Atlanta between 1990 and 1991.

"How much more does the bishop want?" Andrews said. "Sooner or later they've got to put a stop on open season on good priests.

"If he so much as gives one nickel to these people that have alleged the monsignor did this sort of thing - I think the bishop ought think it over," he added.

The diocese's statement, however, said the goal of the settlement was healing: "The resolution of this case will undoubtedly leave many unanswered questions. However, it is unfortunately true in today's world that even a trial and continued appeals of a case seldom bring finality to all questions which might be asked. As a Christian community, our goal is healing and forgiveness, regardless of who is considered the sinner," the release said.

The diocese said, "The claims in these cases have caused pain and distress to all of the parties, to members of the Holy Family Parish and to the Lincoln community."

The agreement with the accusers was reached "with the hope that the resolution of this matter will bring an end to the prospect of several years of continuing pain within the Church and community," and urged the matter be dropped.

 
 

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