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  Diocese Settles 2nd Abuse Case Plaintiff to Receive $50,000 and Counseling

By Kevin Blocker
Spokesman Review [Spokane WA]
September 19, 2003

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane reached a $50,000 settlement on Thursday with a plaintiff who claimed a former Spokane priest sexually abused him.

The unidentified plaintiff said James O'Malley was responsible for the abuse between 25 and 30 years ago, diocese officials said. O'Malley, 84, retired in 1989 and lives in Ireland. The settlement, which also provides the victim with counseling from a professional of his choosing, puts to rest one of 10 lawsuits against the diocese. All stem from sexual abuse allegations by about 30 victims.

The diocese withheld the victim's name at his request, said the Rev. Steve Dublinski, diocese vicar general.

It's the second settlement of an abuse claim reported by the diocese in the past month. The first case involved a priest who was not identified by the diocese.

The diocese has not released financial terms of the first settlement, at that victim's request. The victim in that case was identified only as John Doe.

So far, Dublinski said, the diocese has paid for the settlements "out of pocket," using profits from investments. However, the church's insurers have indicated they may reimburse all costs, he said.

The church said in a written statement that it was making public the settlement in keeping with Bishop William Skylstad's "policy of transparency and prompt reporting."

"We are very interested in helping people move in the direction of healing," Dublinski said in an interview. "We're confident the church is moving in the right direction."

Val and Larry Pember praised the diocese for disclosing the amount of the settlement. The Pembers are devout Catholics who have attempted to rally other Catholics to demand changes within the church. The Pembers are not plaintiffs in any lawsuit against the diocese.

"They need to let the lay people know how much these cases are settling for," Larry Pember said. "At least they've stepped forward and done that."

But Molly Harding, the Spokane head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the settlement represents "business as usual."

The group wants the cases played out in court, so all details will be made public.

"The secrecy continues," Harding said. "It's still hush, hush... like nothing happened."

SNAP contends that as many as 35 Roman Catholic priests have molested children in Eastern Washington over the years. Some of those priests are dead.

The diocese has released the names of six priests who have been accused of sexual molestation.

CORRECTION:
(From Accuracy Watch, September 21, 2003):

Diocese story corrected. A claim against the Spokane Catholic Diocese alleging sexual abuse by a priest hadn't been filed in court as a lawsuit before it was settled Thursday. A story in Friday's paper incorrectly called the claim a lawsuit. Also, the diocese will seek reimbursement from insurers on the claim, but insurance carriers have not yet agreed to cover the settlement.

 
 

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