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  Archdiocese Settles Lawsuit
Priest's Ex-Lover Had Sought $5 Million; She Takes Much Less

By J. Michael Parker
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
September 26, 2003

A $5 million slander lawsuit and a federal employment termination complaint against the Archdiocese of San Antonio have been settled out of court for a much smaller amount.

That amount isn't being disclosed, but archdiocese officials said they still hope to get the plaintiff's agreement to make it public.

Attorney Ron Mendoza, who negotiated the settlement with former parish secretary Jerrilynn Marie White for the archdiocese, announced the deal at a news conference Thursday in the Catholic Chancery.

The mandatory national Charter for Protection of Children and Young People approved by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 forbids dioceses to make confidential settlements in sexual abuse lawsuits.

Although the cases were related to White's complaint that a priest had an affair with her, Mendoza said the two cases don't fall strictly under the charter because White's suit wasn't directly about sexual abuse.

"When the archdiocese said they didn't want the amount of the settlement to be confidential, I immediately sent documents to the plaintiff's attorney asking to remove it from the agreement. That was two weeks ago, and he hasn't responded," Mendoza said.

He said he's preparing another request.

White's Houston attorney, Douglas Sutter, said the archdiocese asked for the change only after word leaked out that it was confidential, and he refused to change it. But he said that if White agrees to the change, he'll comply.

Mendoza said White's monetary demand for a settlement had been dropping and "finally reached the point where it would cost less to settle it than to go to trial."

White said in a statement distributed by Sutter that she's happy with "the settlement made confidential by the archbishop," but still believes that Archbishop Patrick Flores and his top aides "will do nothing to stop the abuses and restore the faith in San Antonio."

White told the archdiocesan tribunal in 2000 that Father Michael Kenny had had affairs with her and numerous other women beginning in 1973 when he was a newly ordained assistant pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. She said the tribunal referred her to the crisis intervention committee.

White said Flores gave details of her allegations to other church employees and the pastor of the parish where she worked in order to force her resignation as retaliation for her complaint.

Flores has denied the charge.

Reached by phone after the news conference, Flores said Mendoza had instructed him not to comment.

White's petition to the Vatican's top court seeking to have Flores and auxiliary bishop Thomas Flanagan removed will go forward.

Flanagan was Kenny's pastor when the affairs began. Kenny, now living in London, no longer serves as a priest.

An $18 million suit filed by another woman, Julia Villegas Phelps, in connection with Kenny was settled last February for $330,000.

 
 

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