| PROVIDENCE RI (9/9/02)
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ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
By Jennifer Levitz
Last March, after nine years of litigation, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence refused to settle more than three dozen sexual-abuse civil lawsuits, saying: "Do you want us to sell Bishop Hendricken High School?"
But as the 38 lawsuits move toward trial, the plaintiffs' lawyers say that the diocese is wealthier, and more of a sophisticated business, than it portrays itself.
The lawyers, who had proposed a settlement of $23 million over five years, note that the diocese's assets include not only parishes, rectories, hospitals, schools, and summer camps, but also sprawling mansions and retreat houses, and acres of land.
There is, for instance, Cardome, a $2.5-million oceanfront mansion in Watch Hill that serves as a summer home for bishops. And on Warwick Neck, the diocese owns the Aldrich Mansion, a 75-room house on 75 acres, bought in 1939 from the family of U.S. Sen. Nelson W. Aldrich. The Italian-marble floors shine, the manicured lawns slope to Narragansett Bay -- the ambience evokes fairy tales. Hollywood producers filmed the movie Meet Joe Black there because, they said, it resembles the French residences of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The diocese rents out the mansion for soirees, weddings, and more; it charges $3,000 for a baby shower. (The fee will increase next year to $4,000, and to $5,000 in 2004, according to the price list.)
Yet most of the wealth of the Rhode Island Catholic Church is not so apparent. Its December financial statement records $97 million in assets but no specific properties. Constitutional laws separating church and state mean that U.S. religious organizations need not report their tax-exempt holdings to the government. And Rhode Island maintains an unusual law that since 1901 has allowed the local Roman Catholic bishop to hold an unlimited amount of land tax-free, in a company under his name only, with virtually no reporting requirements to the state.
[Photo Caption - The Diocese of Providence consists of 250 corporations: charities, schools, parishes, and investment funds. One owns the Aldrich Mansion, above, which was used last year to film the TV show "Providence." The corporation, for which the bishop is the sole officer, also owns a mansion on Watch Hill and 40 acres near the ocean in Narragansett.]
[Photo Caption - Made for the Movies: The producers of Meet Joe Black picked the Aldrich Mansion for filming because they said it resembled the French residences of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Journal File Photo]
[Photo Caption - Now Vacant: This house on Warwick Neck Road, near the Aldrich Mansion, has an assessed value of $380,600. In all, the church owns 77 acres assessed at $9.3 million on Warwick Neck in Warwick. Journal Photo / Steve Szydlowski]
[Photo Caption - Ocean Road: This stone estate in Narragansett is now part of Our Lady of Peace Spiritual Retreat Life Center. The compound covers 40 acres with an estimated value of $4,288,600, according to Narragansett property records. Journal Photo / Steve Szydlowski]
[Photo Caption - Summer Home: This is the bishop's summer residence on Watch Hill in Westerly. Valued today at $2.5-million, the mansion was bequeathed to the church in 1942. It has seven bedrooms, sculpted hedges, and a lawn that stretches to the beach. Journal Photo / John Freidah]
[Photo Caption - Down to the Water: Phyllis Hutnak, who is suing the Providence diocese over alleged sexual abuse, walks across the beach at the bishop's Watch Hill mansion. Journal Photo / John Freidah]
To try to analyze the holdings of the Catholic Church is to wade into a morass, says Dean R. Hoge, director of the Life Cycle Institute, a research organization, at the Catholic University of America.
"How do you know what the church has?" says Hoge, who has studied church finances for a decade. "They won't tell you. The IRS doesn't know. There's no reporting of any kind.
"If the bishop doesn't want information to go out, it doesn't go out."
Shielded holdings are only part of the challenge of looking into the church's finances. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country -- having learned from the Dallas diocese, which in 1997 mortgaged land, its chancery, and a former school to meet a $30-million settlement against a priest -- have adopted complex structures.
The Diocese of Providence may argue to Rhode Island judges, in its quest to keep its internal governance private, that the church is not a corporation but, rather, a hierarchy, ruled by centuries-old Canon Law -- yet its structure is modern and secular. The diocese consists, in fact, of 250 corporations: charities, schools, parishes, and investment funds, each listed as a separate company. Since the sexual-abuse lawsuits began in Rhode Island, in 1993, the diocese has added nine new corporations.
Patrick Schiltz, dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School, in Minnesota, and a lawyer who has represented the church in sexual-abuse cases, says: "The simple reason [for the corporations] is so that when someone who works for one part of the operation does something that creates a lot of liability, it doesn't pull down the whole operation -- if a jury goes off the deep end and awards millions, schools and parishes all over the diocese don't have to shut down."
Robert W. Tuttle, a professor at George Washington Law School, says that lawyers for the church are saying there's "no need to leave our chest exposed, so they can stab us."
"When you strip the religious part away," says Tuttle, "the diocese is a complicated enterprise."
Lawyers for Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States have discussed ways to shield assets from lawsuits since 1988, according to minutes from that year's National Meeting of Diocesan Attorneys, attended by William T. Murphy, the lawyer for the Providence diocese.
A moderator at the meeting said that the Archdiocese of Dubuque, for instance, had more than 400 corporations, and that the advantage of being organized this way was that "problems at the parish level will not get into the diocesan coffers."
The Providence diocese had already, since the early to mid-1900s, incorporated most of its parishes. St. Stanislas Kostka Church, of Woonsocket? A corporation. The Church of Our Lady of Victory, in Ashaway? A corporation. The bishop, currently Robert E. Mulvee, is the president of each corporation.
Since 1993, with the first lawsuits alleging that the diocese had covered up sexual abuse from the 1960s into the '90s, the diocese has created nine more corporations. Among them are the Catholic Investment Trust, the Diocesan Administration Corporation, the Diocesan Service Corporation, the Holy Spirit Catholic Community, the Interparish Loan Fund, and most recently, the Parish Investment Group.
The corporations are not physical entities; the address for each is that of Murphy, the diocesan lawyer.
William G. Halpin, spokesman for the diocese, says that the corporations were formed for a variety of reasons. Some of them were formed to restrict the use of donations to specific charities. Others have been formed to "maximize the return on investments."
"To be sure," says Halpin, "the very purpose of any corporation includes insulation from liability. That does not imply any illegal or improper use of corporate structure."
The diocese has placed its most valuable property, such as the Watch Hill and Aldrich mansions, in a corporation entitled the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, a Corporation Sole. "A Corporation Sole" means that the bishop is the sole officer and owner. This is what the Rhode Island General Assembly approved in 1901, and in 1954 it amended the law to allow the bishop to hold unlimited tax-free land in his name. Unlike a nonprofit corporation, he is not required to file detailed reports, or list directors, for this corporation. Fewer than half the states recognize corporations sole, which are typically used as land-holding entities by such proprietors as the Queen of England and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Rhode Island plaintiffs' lawyers estimate that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, a Corporation Sole, holds $44.6 million worth of real estate. Halpin, the diocesan spokesman, will not confirm that valuation: "We do not have current appraisals to give you an accurate figure."
The Watch Hill mansion, bequeathed by a Providence woman in 1942 to the late Bishop Francis P. Keough, has seven bedrooms, sculpted hedges, and a lawn that stretches to the beach. It is a part-time summer home for bishops, who also invite other high-ranking members of the clergy to stay there, says Halpin.
On Warwick Neck, the bishop corporation owns a total of 77 acres of land, assessed at $9.3 million. Along with the 75-acre Aldrich estate, there is nearly a block of land near the Warwick Country Club and a large (empty) house on Warwick Neck Avenue, assessed at $380,600.
The star of the Warwick holdings is, of course, the Aldrich estate. In 1896 Sen. Nelson W. Aldrich imported artisans from Italy and France to create the mansion. In teak and mahogany, woodcarvers sculpted acorns, fruits, and wreathed dancing figures. Gold leaf surrounds the painting on the foyer's ceiling.
The estate consists of the mansion, a caretaker's cottage, and a boat house -- itself a mini-mansion, designed to remind Aldrich of the steamships upon which he had journeyed to Europe. Theodore Roosevelt stayed in the house, as did William H. Taft. Aldrich's daughter Abby married John D. Rockefeller Jr. there.
By 1939 Aldrich's family, worn down by the estate's upkeep, sold it to the Roman Catholic bishop corporation, for $75,000. The diocese built a seminary on the property, but closed it in the '80s; it now leases part of the property to the Legionaires of Christ, a religious order that runs Overbook Academy, a girls' school. The Aldrich mansion is best known now as a posh banquet hall.
Halpin, the diocesan spokesman, declines to specify how much the diocese makes each year by renting out the mansion, or how much the diocese was paid for the six weeks of filming Meet Joe Black, the 1998 movie starring Brad Pitt. But, says Halpin, by the time the diocese pays for the upkeep, the mansion is "typically a break even proposition or a slight deficit."
Along with the Aldrich and Watch Hill mansions, the Roman Catholic bishop corporation owns at least two retreat properties. In Narragansett, it has the Our Lady of Peace Spiritual Retreat Life Center, a compound bought in 1951 from South County's Hazard family. The grand stone house and surrounding cottages, on 40 acres, have an estimated value of $4,288,600, according to Narragansett property records.
The retreat is home to two priests and a nun, and it's where the diocese holds a "variety of spiritual-enrichment programs," says spokesman Halpin.
The bishop corporation's other major retreat is the St. Dominic Savio Youth Center, in South Kingstown. Standing on 13 acres of former farmland donated to the diocese, the center is open for retreats and meetings, says Halpin. No one lives there.
In addition to these establishments, the bishop corporation owns stretches of open land, in such towns as Foster, Exeter, Smithfield, Middletown, Portsmouth, Westerly, and Cumberland.
The Portsmouth holdings include waterfront and parcels on Prudence Island and East Main Road, assessed at almost $300,000.The 130 acres in Westerly have an assessment of $500,000. And the 113 Cumberland acres lie in the desirable Diamond Hill area. This land has been assessed at $226,000, although tax assessor Michael O'Learycalls that a conservative figure; house plots here sell for $90,000 and up.
Meanwhile, there are the bishop corporation's 22 acres in Newport, off Ocean Drive: a school sits on some of them, while across the street 10 nuns live in a house on eight acres. The two parcels have an assessment of $2.4 million. And in Barrington, the corporation's Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns is worth an estimated $1.6 million. Fifteen nuns live and hold retreats on this property near the Bay.
The diocese does sometimes sell its property.
A 94-acre novitiate in Portsmouth - empty for several years -- recently sold for $2.1 million, to a developer who is building an assisted-living center. And in 1987 the diocese sold its Newport convent, Stella Maris, for $1.5 million. It went to developers of high-end condominiums, who paid $600,000 over the asking price even though the city and an affordable-housing coalition had offered to buy it at the asking price for low-income housing for the elderly. Some affordable-housing advocates criticized the diocese, noting that Stella Maris had been left to the diocese, in a parishioner's will, as a retirement home.
Phyllis Hutnak is suing the Providence diocese over alleged sexual abuse by the late Monsignor Louis W. Dunn, convicted three years ago of raping a different woman in 1982. She has visited most of the state's town and city halls to research the Catholic Church's property and sales. "We were amazed," she says, "at how much property they owned."
Hutnak, who is 51 and lives in Charlestown, says that she is looking into the church's assets because the church, while portraying those who are suing it as greedy, is not being open about its wealth. "To say people would lose a church or a school -- that's a scare tactic," she says.
When the diocese rejected a settlement offer last March, it said that its money was tied up in charitable causes that could not, under state law, be taken away and in real estate that is not easily liquidated. To which one of the plaintiff lawyers, Carl P. DeLuca, responded that the diocese "has many assets they can liquidate, or pledge as security for a loan, in order to compensate victims of sexual abuse."
DeLuca added: "It is commendable that the diocese wishes to be able to continue supporting the charitable works it has traditionally supported. However, the Providence diocese must realize that charity begins at home, particularly when the need that exists was created by their own conduct."
Where does the money generated by such diocesan corporations as the Roman Catholic Bishop go? The diocese says that the money goes to education, summer camps, schools, and other charitable organizations that it runs. And, it says, the money raised by the diocese's annual Catholic Charity Fund Appeal -- $6.5 million this year -- provides services for 200,000 Rhode Islanders.
None of the diocese's money has gone to the people who are now demanding restitution for having suffered at the hands of the Rhode Island Catholic Church.
The diocese has argued successfully in Rhode Island courts that despite the church's corporate structure, its bishops are not CEOs, its internal investigations are not civil inquiries, and its property is not available to satisfy civil lawsuits.
James T. Murphy, the other main diocesan lawyer -- along with William T. Murphy -- in this case, explained recently: "The problem is that the church, any church, is not like any corporation."
That opinion is sounded from as high as the Vatican. In April, in an interview with Business Week International, Cardinal Edmund C. Scoka, the Vatican's financial officer, said: "We are not a business, nor a corporation."
In Rhode Island, in 1998, then Superior Court Judge Richard J. Israel refused to force the diocese to open its personnel files, to show how higher-ups had handled complaints of sexual abuse. Israel wrote: "Inquiry into such matters would plainly take this court into religious questions beyond its jurisdictions."
Earlier, in 1989, Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Needham said that the corporation that holds church property could not legally be sued by a parishioner abused by the late Father William C. O'Connell, a convicted sexual abuser. Needham said that the state law that established the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, a Sole Corporation, defines the corporation as a property-holding entity: therefore, the corporation has no role in supervising priests.
In 1999 the state Supreme Court dismissed an attempt by a dozen people to have the bishop corporation found liable for alleged abuse at the former St. Aloysius Home, in Smithfield. Justice Robert G. Flanders wrote: "Just as all cows are mammals but not all mammals are cows, the mere fact that Bishop [Louis E.] Gelineau was the sole member and officer of RCB does not mean that every action taken by Bishop Gelineau was one that could be attributed to RCB."
The lawyers for the plaintiffs now believe that the courts are shifting in their favor.
Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause, now overseeing the litigation, ruled last month that the diocese must open its records regarding what it knew and what it did about priests accused of sexual abuse. Krause said that even the country's Catholic bishops, at their May conference in Dallas, had pledged a new openness about the sexual-abuse scandal.
DeLuca, one of the plaintiff lawyers, says that if the cases go to trial, he hopes to prove that the bishop corporation's property is vulnerable.
He intends to show, he says, that the corporation is an "alter ego" of the bishop -- that the corporation, the diocese, and the bishop are "one and same, for legal purposes."
Plaintiff lawyers in church cases in other states have managed to do that.
In 1997 a Connecticut jury awarded a $1-million settlement to a man who alleged abuse by a Bridgeport priest in the 1960s.
Recalls that plaintiff's lawyer, Jennifer D. Laviano: The Bridgeport bishop at the time, Edward M. Egan, argued that the diocese was not responsible for priests, because each parish was its own corporation and all priests were self-employed.
"They were trying to present the diocese as a McDonald's chain," says Laviano. "The jury didn't buy that -- the jury thought the diocese was a corporation, like any other."
Schiltz, the dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School, says that between $300 million and $400 million has been paid to abuse victims by the country's 194 Roman Catholic dioceses. Halpin, the Providence diocese's spokesman, says "no information is available" on how much the diocese has paid to victims in the past.
In Rhode Island, nine members of the Catholic clergy have been prosecuted for sexual abuse, and six have been convicted. (Eight others have been investigated but not charged.) In 1990 the diocese paid $1 million in a confidential settlement to a Narragansett boy's family after Bishop Gelineau acknowledged, in a sworn deposition, that he had not confronted Father O'Connell about allegations of suspicious behavior made by two assistant pastors at St. Mary Church, in Bristol. (The boy's mother later broke the confidentiality agreement when O'Connell was arrested in New Jersey for abusing boys.)
With the threat of more payments or jury awards and settlements, some dioceses are just now seeking to protect themselves.In May the Archdiocese of Denver incorporated five parishes, -- drawing criticism that it was trying to shield the churches from liability.
"If they do it now," says Schiltz, "they're accused of trying to hide assets from victims of sexual abuse."
Can dioceses go bankrupt? No, says Hoge, the researcher at Catholic University.
"The Catholic Church is an international thing with lots of assets," he says. "They are not going to let any one unit go bankrupt."
Some dioceses might be forced -- or inclined, for the sake of "credibility" -- to trim down, says Hoge. The Boston Archdiocese, for one, has cut its budget by a third.
Although much of the church's property can't be liquidated, he says ("They can't sell the cathedral -- how are you going to put a price tag on that?"), "the country houses, the beachfront properties" certainly can.
"It's time to make a list of what is there,' says Hoge. "A lot of that is not known. Maybe it's time to let that be known: what do they have, and how badly do they need it for the church's mission."
The mixing of wealth and religion has, of course, been controversial since the disciples hassled Jesus because a woman had washed his head with precious ointment, rather than giving it to the poor, says the Rev. Craig B. Mousin, director of church-state studies at DePaul University.
In the current crisis over sexual abuse within the Catholic church, two in the Roman Catholic hierarchy have decided to do with less.
Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George announced in May that he might sell the archdiocesan residence, a place where popes and presidents have stayed, and direct the money to schoolchildren.
And in England the same month, the Roman Catholic bishop of Lancaster announced that he planned to sell the 16-room Victorian bishop's mansion. He told the Independent newspaper: "I want to say to my people, and hopefully other people, too, that the church is more than big houses which are status symbols from another era."
But in Providence that month, the diocese released a statement to quell rumors that the Aldrich mansion might be sold to pay the legal fees in sexual-abuse lawsuits. People had been calling with concerns about their plans for weddings and other events to be held there.
To some Rhode Island Catholics, that is a relief. State Rep. Brian Kennedy, chairman of the corporations committee -- which more than 100 years ago formed the Roman Catholic Bishop corporation -- says:
they own [the Providence diocese] own some of the most beautiful land in the state."
"With scandals going on," continues Kennedy, "some people
might think that some of these parcels should be sold off. I'm not one
of them -- I'm hoping they can work through their problems."
By Jennifer Levitz
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has reached tentative financial settlements in dozens of sexual-abuse lawsuits that the church has been fighting for 10 years, according to a source close to the case.
The diocese refused to confirm the settlements yesterday, and acknowledged only that it had entered into mediation with most of the 38 alleged and proven victims of sexual abuse by 11 priests and one nun over three decades.
William T. Murphy, the church's lawyer, said in a joint statement with the plaintiffs' lawyers: "The parties have been involved in intense mediation toward resolution of the pending cases. Out of respect for the process, no further statement will be issued at this time."
One settlement offer from the Providence diocese was described in a motion filed in Superior Court on Tuesday by a Cranston lawyer who represents a woman who is suing the diocese.
A source yesterday confirmed that the majority of the plaintiffs participated in mediation, and have reached tentative settlement agreements with the diocese.
The settlement would be one of a number since the clergy-abuse scandal swept across the nation. In January, the Tucson diocese paid a reported $15 million in 11 lawsuits.
After backing out of a settlement earlier this year, the Boston archdiocese has proposed a $10-million settlement for alleged victims there.
At a news conference yesterday, Boston plaintiffs' lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said 86 of his clients were considering the proposal, but he would not say how many had agreed to it.
In Providence, a settlement would be an abrupt shift in legal strategy, coming after years of vigorous litigation, in which the diocese has refused to relinquish files, has demanded as many as 400 documents from each plaintiff, and has continually sought to have all but four of the lawsuits dismissed on arguments that they violated statutes of limitations.
David Clohessy, director of the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said of the Rhode Island lawsuits: "I don't know of a case where there has been nine years of such protracted litigation, such intransigence by church leaders."
In March, the Providence diocese turned down a proposal from plaintiffs' lawyers to settle for over $23 million over five years, or transfer nonessential real estate.
In rejecting the proposal, James T. Murphy, a diocesan lawyer, said then: "The plaintiffs' lawyers want us to basically pay lots of money to these plaintiffs, or other plaintiffs down the road, even though our clients are not morally or legally responsible for what priests may or may not have done."
These comments came before this summer, when the diocese's longtime success in Rhode Island's courts came to a halt.
Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause, who took over the litigation last fall, in July ordered the diocese to open its files to show what the hierarchy knew and did about sexually deviant priests.
Krause, noting a national "clamor for reform," essentially reversed years of Rhode Island court decisions that had allowed the diocese to resist answering prying questions and avoid turning over memoranda and personnel files -- using arguments of canon law, religious freedom, and clergy-penitent privilege.
The plaintiffs' lawyers had obtained numerous sworn affidavits, from a priest and parishioners, who said they complained to the Providence diocese about sexually abusive priests as early as the 1960s. The lawyers believed the diocese's files, including its own internal investigations of convicted priests, would show how the hierarchy handled abusers.
Krause wrote of the national call for "public disclosure of matters relating to priests who sexually assault children."
"It is simply wrong," he wrote, "to conclude that information and communications that plaintiffs seek are privileged and should somehow be insulated from disclosure, when that information relates in any way to a pedophile priest who has engaged in criminal sexual assaults upon children."
The diocese appealed Krause's decision, but Krause reaffirmed it on July 8. Three days later, the diocese filed a motion with the state's Supreme Court, arguing that Krause's order should be reviewed because it differed from an earlier decision by Superior Court Judge Richard J. Israel.
The Supreme Court did not act on the motion.
Weeks later, the Providence diocese began mediation with 37 of the 38 plaintiffs at Commonwealth Mediation & Conciliation, a Brockton firm, according to a motion filed in Superior Court on Tuesday.
In the motion, Steven A. Robinson, the lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, asked to be removed from the case, partly because his client had not participated in mediation.
A lawyer for the mediation firm had nonetheless called "to relay an offer in settlement" from the diocese, Robinson wrote. His client had asked him not to pursue the offer. Robinson wrote of a "likely settlement" in most of the The 38 lawsuits name individual parishes and priests, the Roman Catholic Bishop Corporation -- which holds the church's priciest property -- and the hierarchy: Bishop Robert E. Mulvee, former Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, and former auxiliary bishop Kenneth A. Angell, now bishop of Burlington, Vt.
Until Judge Krause's decision in July, it appeared that the diocese and plaintiffs were headed to trial.
In May, church lawyers scheduled 30 depositions in 40 days, calling in both proven victims, and alleged victims, often along with their parents, neighbors and others. Some of the depositions turned contentious, and showed the adversarial relationship between the two sides, transcripts recently obtained by the Journal show.
Take the Bragg family of Warwick. In 1999, the Rev. Michael LaMountain pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting three Bragg boys and two others from the 1970s through the early 1990s. One Bragg son is suing the diocese.
Diocesan lawyers this summer called in the entire Bragg family, including a fourth son who was a toddler at the time of the abuse.
A diocesan lawyer emphasized in depositions how Elizabeth Bragg, the boys' mother, had confronted LaMountain in a letter, but had not gone to police or to the bishop.
(According to court files, the mother suspected only that the priest might have rubbed her son's leg while on an errand. Court files contain a reply from Father LaMountain, apologizing and saying he was seeking treatment).
In the diocese's June deposition of William Bragg, the boys' father, another church lawyer, James T. Murphy said: "You're aware that there are other young men who are filing suits or [who] filed suits against the bishops who were molested years after your wife wrote that letter to LaMountain?"
When Bragg became irritated, Carl P. DeLuca, the plaintiff's attorney, suggested they take a break: "Both you guys are getting upset."
Replied Murphy: "I am upset. You know why I'm upset, Carl? You tell these poor people lies about my client. They have an understanding of facts that are totally distorted. These poor men and women are more upset because of what the lawyers do than they are about anything the damned priests did."
Referring to Murphy, Bragg said: "My blood pressure is sky high. He can't keep yelling like this and intimidating people."
Asked why his son had filed a lawsuit against the church, Bragg said: "To bring this to a head, to have the church take the responsibility to remove these pedophiles from the church, okay. That is the reason. You can believe that or not. But that's the only way something gets done with the church, if there's a lawsuit brought. If they think it's going to hurt their assets, then they'll make changes. Other than that, they just ... "It was unclear yesterday how the Providence diocese's assets would be tapped in a settlement.
According to the diocese's 2000-2001 financial statement, the diocese had not factored in a possible settlement, stating that its Roman Catholic Bishop Corporation is the defendant in several lawsuits relating to the alleged misconduct of priests. "Management, in consultation with legal counsel, believes it has strong legal defenses in these cases and that potential settlement amounts, if any, will not be material to financial statements," the statement said.
The plaintiffs' attorneys say the diocese has real estate worth $44 million, including the 75-acre Aldrich mansion on Warwick Neck and a $2.5-million summer home on Watch Hill. The diocese will not confirm the figure.
The diocese relied on its Catholic Mutual insurance to settle, a few years ago, with a young man abused in 1991 by the Rev. James M. Silva.
But the diocese's major insurer, for the span during which the most sexual abuse is said to have occurred, has already balked once at paying sexual-abuse claims.
In 1994, the diocese submitted claims to the Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. under two polices it says it had with Aetna from 1974 to 1977.
Aetna, in turn, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Providence
saying it shouldn't have to pay these claims. In the case, which is still
ongoing in federal court, Aetna wrote that church officials, including
Bishop Gelineau, knew about the alleged abuse and failed to stop it, "thereby
failing to mitigate damages as insured parties are required to do."
By Jennifer Levitz
Providence - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence yesterday reached a $13.5-million settlement in 36 sexual-abuse lawsuits, abruptly ending what is believed to be the longest stretch of litigation over clergy misconduct in the nation.
Standing next to plaintiffs' lawyers at a news conference at the diocesan headquarters, Bishop Robert E. Mulvee said of the decade-long legal battle: "This is a day long sought that brings to an end the difficult and often contentious process of litigation that has been painful for most concerned."
"I reach out with deep sadness to the victims. Certainly in the name of the church, I ask their forgiveness and offer an apology for the harm that has been done to them."
The settlement comes less than two months after a Superior Court judge for the first time ordered the diocese to open its files -- to show what it knew and did about abusive priests. The ruling, by Judge Robert D. Krause, was a blow to the diocese, which had long successfully argued that its files were protected by religious freedom. The diocese appealed Krause's ruling to the state Supreme Court, which encouraged the two parties to enter into mediation, plaintiffs' lawyer Timothy J. Conlon said yesterday.
[Photo Caption - Victims Listen: Leland J. White, center, a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the Roman Catholic clergy, listens yesterday as Providence Bishop Robert E. Mulvee, left foreground, discusses the church's settlement. Journal Photo / Steve Szydlowski]
[Photo Caption - Resonant Apology: Providence Bishop Robert E. Mulvee announces yesterday's $13.5-million settlement, apologizing for the church's actions and asking forgiveness of its sexual-assault victims. Journal Photo / Steve Szydlowski]
Conlon, speaking on behalf of five plaintiff lawyers involved in the cases, called yesterday's settlement "historic," saying "we are the oldest group of cases in the country," and that the long legal battle has "torn at the very culture" of the most Roman Catholic state in the country.
Standing at the podium, Conlon then turned to Bishop Mulvee, saying: "Your heartfelt condolences in reaching out to my clients means more to them than anything I could bring; it's more than you had to do, and it's the right thing .. I applaud your courage."
One plaintiff yesterday said the settlement was like having a "building" lifted from her back. Anita Guilbault, 43, said she was abused by her family priest as a teenager in Cumberland.
"There will always be reminders; he abused me when I was 16 but he came into my life when I was 4," said Guilbault, of Lincoln. "Whenever I smell a pipe, there is the priest's presence. But this is official closure."
Leland J. White, another plaintiff, cried at the news conference, and hugged Monsignor Paul D. Theroux, who had represented the diocese during mediation. White, who is 46, and a lawyer in Arlington, Va., had filed a lawsuit in 1993. He was one of eight men whose lawsuits alleged abuse by the Rev. James M. Silva -- who was convicted of abuse in 1995.
"Thank you," White told the monsignor. "Today meant a lot. Today meant a real lot."
White, in an interview, said he felt that filing a lawsuit was the only way to get the church to publicly take responsibility for the abuse, and to prevent future abuse.
"I was raised a Catholic. As a Catholic, confession has two parts. You say you did something wrong, and then you do penance, make some gesture of sorrow," he said. "The church has said publicly, 'We are sorry,' but there was never anything behind that, just empty words. Now there's something real and genuine behind that and it makes all the difference in the world."
But outside the diocesan headquarters yesterday, in Cathedral Square, one victim said he was hesitant to believe the diocese's sincerity. He noted that the decision to settle after so many years came shortly after Judge Krause "had 'em up against the wall" with his decision in July that the diocese hand over its files.
"Only time will tell if their actions in the future will uphold what they've said today," said James Egan, a teacher who was repeatedly sexually abused by the Rev. Michael V. LaMountain as a teenager. LaMountain pleaded guilty to the abuse of Egan and four others in 1997.
Jeanne Egan, James's mother, was with her son. Asked whether she was disappointed that with yesterday's settlement, the church's records would likely remain private -- she said, "oh yes."
"I think they should come out," she said. "It's the only way the public is going to know."
The Providence settlement is one of a number in the past year. The Los Angeles Archdiocese paid $5.2 million to one plaintiff last year; the Tucson diocese paid $14 million to 16 victims in January, and the Jesuit order paid $7.5 million to two alleged victims earlier this month. The 86 plaintiffs in the Boston abuse case are considering a $10-million proposal.
The Providence agreement covers all but two of the 38 men and women who sued the diocese, accusing 11 priests and a nun. Negotiations are continuing in the other two cases.
Bishop Mulvee said that to come up with the $13.5 million, the diocese will seek both "internal and external financing," including investment reserves, pending insurance claims, and possibly the sale of "excess dioesean property." One candidate, he said, could be the Watch Hill mansion that serves as the bishop's summer home -- "but no final decisions have been made."
He is insistent, he said, that the money not come from parishes, or from charitable campaigns, such as the Catholic Charity Appeal.
Of the settlement, Bishop Mulvee said: "Some will ask, what took you so long?" He said there is no simple answer, but that these cases presented "a number of new legal issues that required a great deal of study and research."
Bishop Mulvee, who spoke both from the podium and through a statement he released to the media, explained: "The legal issues still exist of course, but while very important, they do not outweigh my overriding concern for the hurt suffered by these victims and the need to provide them a just resolution and ongoing therapeutic assistance."
He said the diocese had pledged to provide counseling for any victims who requested it.
Jeffrey R. Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer well known for his cases against the Catholic church, yesterday said that dioceses everywhere have taken a more conciliatory approach since the U.S. Bishops' meeting in Dallas. But the Providence settlement, he said, represents a major shift in legal strategy.
The change in public opinion about sexual-abuse cases, he said, coupled with a judge's orders to turn over documents, likely changed the course of litigation in Providence. Those scenarios are also starting to play out elsewhere.
"They can't operate with the degree of arrogance, insularity and secretness they had before," he said. "They know this is a public relations disaster."
Plaintiff lawyer Carl P. DeLuca yesterday said, however, that while it was true that the diocese had entered into mediation after the courts swung against them -- church officials seemed sincere in wanting to resolve the cases.
During mediation, as individuals began telling their stories, DeLuca said, church officials "were human beings finally having the reaction that we were always expecting they would have."
Monsignor Theroux, who attended the mediation, yesterday said the mediation had been emotional for him. He said victims felt betrayed not only by priests, but by the church.
"When the church didn't respond as strongly as they hoped, they felt betrayed again," he said.
One of the plaintiffs, Daniel Heroux, yesterday said that mediation "was the first time I've had the diocese listen to me."
Heroux, a 42-year-old analyst at Amica Insurance, said, "I felt I could walk away with my head high and that, for once, I wasn't made to feel as though it was my fault."
The plaintiffs' lawsuits named not only individual parishes and priests, but also Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence -- a company that holds the church's most valuable land and property -- plus the hierarchy: Bishop Mulvee, former Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, and former auxiliary bishops Kenneth A. Angell, now bishop of Burlington, Vt., and Daniel P. Reilly, now bishop of Worcester, Mass.
The accused clergy members included the Reverends Robert A. Carpentier, Joseph D'Angelo, Alfred P. Desrosiers, Roland M. Lepire, Michael V. LaMountain, Robert A. Marcantonio, Richard Meglio, Edmund Micarelli, William C. O'Connell, and James M. Silva. The other accused are Monsignor Louis W. Dunn, and a nun, Sister Mary Claudine. None of the clergy work for the church anymore. Four are dead. Six have been convicted of child abuse.
The diocese listed assets of $97 million in its most recent financial statement. Plaintiffs' lawyers believe the diocese owns $44 million in property -- a number the diocese won't confirm.
Explaining the settlement yesterday, Bishop Mulvee said "there is very little property that is not directly tied to ministry."
The 75-acre Aldrich Mansion on Warwick Neck might seem to be excess property, he said, but it is used for many diocesan meetings, seminars, and gatherings. Also, he said, the mansion -- a posh banquet venue -- generates enough revenue to maintain the Aldrich property, which is also home to a girls' boarding school.
One leader in the church laity said yesterday he was somewhat bothered by the concept of resolving sexual-abuse lawsuits with money.
Ralph Lawrence, a trustee at SS. John & Paul Parish in Coventry, explained: "I certainly feel badly for anyone who was abused and I want them to be able to move forward with their lives, although in some of these cases I feel ... and I'm not referring specifically to cases in Rhode Island -- that the payment of these monies is not necessarily how you help a person move forward. They certainly need help with counseling ... that type of thing."
Lawrence said it also concerns him because, "quite frankly that money is coming from other programs. It's coming from somewhere. Just the concept of it bothers me, but if that's what it takes to put it all behind us so the victims can move forward and the church can move forward and concentrate on the positive and good work it has always done, I guess we have to face that as a fact."
But yesterday, one plaintiff, Kenneth Sousa-Hart, said that "money is really secondary. I didn't go into mediation thinking I was going to come out Donald Trump."
Sousa-Hart, who is 45, said he was molested at around age 11, at his Newport parish. He joined the lawsuits in 1994 at the suggestion of his father, who had read about a few individuals suing the church. He told his son if he still needed to get this "weight off my shoulder and this ugly situation out of my head, this would be the time to do it."
"The church is very powerful," said Sousa-Hart. "It has
no problem owning property or passing around the basket; this is just
another way to strike it and to tell it that they should be paying attention
to its staff."
By Linda Borg
Providence - The Most Rev. Robert E. Mulvee, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, has offered to meet privately with each of the 36 victims of sexual abuse who recently agreed to a $13.5-million settlement with the diocese.
"This is a chance to confront the bishop and tell him what has happened to them, what it was like and how they are feeling," said William Halpin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Providence. "One of the major missions of the church is reconciliation, to bring [parishioners] back to God."
Bishop Mulvee's offer was part of the settlement announced by the diocese and plaintiffs' lawyers at a news conference earlier this month.
On a related front, the diocese announced the creation of a lay board that will review and develop policies on how the diocese should respond both to the victims of sexual abuse and the perpetrators.
Bishop Mulvee appointed former Atty. Gen. Dennis J. Roberts to head the Child Protection Advisory Board.
Also serving on the eight-person board are Edmond S. Culhane, retired superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; Anne Marie D'Alessio, director of the Rhode Island Victims Advocacy and Support Center; Laureen D'Ambra, Rhode Island's child advocate, and Rabbi Marc Jagolinzer, of Temple Shalom.
One of the victims, Lee White, 46, a lawyer in Arlington, Va., said that victims should be represented on the committee because their stories are so powerful and so haunting.
"The fact that Monsignor Paul D. Theroux heard our stories really moved things along," White said, speaking of the settlement. "I think it would help the group to have one of us serve, because we have a unique perspective."
Monsignor Theroux had represented the diocese during mediation.
Roberts said the committee will invite victims to talk with the board, adding that he will take this suggestion to his group.
"We're not trying to exclude anyone," he said.
Timothy J. Conlon, one of the plaintiff's lawyers, said he spoke with Monsignor Theroux and was confident that the diocese would appoint one of the victims who settled with the diocese.
"I was very pleased that the diocese was looking for outside input," Conlon said. "I asked them to appoint one of the victims from the formal litigation, and I'm hopeful that indeed they will do so."
The creation of a lay review board was one of many national guidelines adopted last summer by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which met for two days in Dallas.
The bishops voted to bar priests who commit sexual abuse from parish work and all ministry, although they stopped short of automatically ousting them from the priesthood.
They also created a national Office of Child and Youth Protection to implement programs to protect children from abuse.
And they permitted bishops to form an advisory board to assist the bishop in assessing sexual-abuse allegations and determining whether to remove abusive clergy from the priesthood.
Although this responsibility was not included in the Providence board's mandate, Roberts said that members would be willing to perform any duties that Bishop Mulvee designates.
"This is basically a policy committee," he said. "We're here to develop policies that are fair to victims and to priests. I'd like our work to contribute to strengthening the faith of Catholics who have been hurt by [these allegations]."
Roberts said the board will not be window-dressing designed to make the diocese look good.
"If you look at the history of the eight members on this board," he said, "I don't think any of us would have served if this was a paper tiger."
D'Ambra said she believes that the bishop is committed to conducting an honest evaluation of the diocese's handling of sex-abuse cases.
"I don't think anyone who has read the newspapers hasn't been upset," she said of the rash of sex cases. "It's more a matter of learning from these mistakes. As a child advocate, I always try and turn a negative into a positive."
White, who alleges that he was abused by the Rev. James M. Silva, who was later convicted of abuse, said he is convinced that Bishop Mulvee's intentions are heartfelt:
"The fact that he made a public apology to us [during the Sept. 9 news conference] and apologized to my family, I was moved by his sincerity," White said. "I think the bishop is deadly serious about this."
The other members of the board are the Rev. Joseph Guido, a professor
at Providence College and a psychologist; Dr. Michael Hansen, director
of Organizational Behavior & Development of Wakefield; and Carly Frink,
who counsels the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island on sex-abuse issues.
By Rita Lussier ReetsAL@ aol.com
One Sunday morning last summer, my pastor mentioned something in passing about a column I'd written. And then he said: "Why don't you write something positive about the Catholic Church? We sure could use it about now."
I thought about that. The positive things going on in the Church certainly did outweigh the negative. The missions. The programs for the children. The donations to the poor. The volunteers helping in the community. Example after example of genuine people. Good people. Selfless people. Living up to their faith. Doing the right thing.
And yet, in much the same way as onlookers to an accident clog both lanes of traffic, we human beings seem to be drawn to the bad in this world. Often, we'd rather hear what went wrong than what went right. What was lost instead of what was gained.
So last week, when my friend, Lee White, asked me to write something positive about the Church, I decided it was time. After all, Lee had spent the last 10 years or so of his life with not much good to say. And who could blame him?
As you may recall, Lee was one of the plaintiffs in the recent case against the Diocese of Providence. Nearly a decade ago, in 1993, he filed a lawsuit against Father James M. Silva, formerly of St. Joseph's parish in Newport, who was convicted of sexual abuse two years later. But the battle with the diocese would wage on for many years.
And then, one Monday last month, a settlement was finally reached. For the first time since it all began, Lee and 35 other plaintiffs had the chance to put the whole sad nightmare behind them.
My question was this: How could someone who had been heading down one, very narrow path for so long suddenly shift gears and want to praise the Catholic Church?
"They did more than I expected," Lee told me. Although he was aware of the monetary aspect of the settlement, on the day it was announced, Lee was surprised by some of the details. "They agreed to pay for all of my therapy, both retroactive and proactive. And they've made a recommendation to defrock the priests who were involved."
On the way to reaching the agreement, Lee and several of his co-plaintiffs sat down with Monsignor Paul Theroux in Boston. As it turned out, at least for Lee, the mediation was one of the most helpful parts of the entire process. "Having the chance to sit at a table and tell your story one-on-one to a monsignor and to see his reaction. It was very healing."
Also helping to close the wound was Bishop Robert Mulvee. "You could tell he was in a tough position and it was hard for him to do," Lee told me. "Yet he went out of his way. He told me he was sorry. He even went up to my father and apologized. That meant a lot to me."
Of course, there's a lot more here than meets the eye. Anyone who grew up with nuns in the classroom, CCD after school and CYO on the weekends, as Lee did, understands this. The bonds. The subtle threads woven through your heart and soul. The layers beneath the scar tissue that need mending.
Not so surprising then that despite Lee's attempts to hold it together at the news conference announcing the settlement, despite his resolve to remain calm and composed, there were tears streaming down his face.
There are cynics, of course. "Some people think it's about the money. But the money without the apology would have done me no good," Lee said. "Let me put it this way. I'll still be getting up and going to work tomorrow. I'm not going to buy a new car, a bigger house. I'm going to put the check in savings for my son to go to college and for retirement."
Having been reconfirmed several years ago as an Episcopalian, Lee isn't planning to go back to being a Catholic. "I have my church. But I feel like I've finally reconciled with the past."
But you have to wonder. After having spent so much time and energy on all of this, what now? Lee said he'll always be an advocate for others who've suffered abuse, but mostly he just wants to spend time with his family.
"I said to myself Monday night before I got onto the plane to go
home, when that door closes, it closes on this part of my life. Time to
put it behind me and move on. I just want to give Bishop Mulvee and the
Diocese of Providence credit for doing the right thing. For giving me
a chance to heal."
By Michael Mello
A Burrillville woman is all that stands in the way of the Diocese of Providence's efforts to keep secret documents relating to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
Mary Ryan filed a lawsuit in 1995 against the diocese and the late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn, who was subsequently convicted of raping her. The mother of four is the only one of 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse who did not join a $14.25-million settlement with the diocese, announced in September.
Ryan turned down a $400,000 settlement offer from the diocese, according to court documents filed by her former attorney. She intends to pursue her case.
Last month the state Supreme Court refused to review a lower court's order that the church give plaintiffs certain information about priests accused of abuse, and when it obtained that information. The high court said it was "inappropriate to address the issues raised within the framework of a case which has now been resolved."
As long as Ryan's case remains unresolved, the question of what documents the diocese can be forced to release is open.
"The fine issue ... is when an individual supplies information to
a bishop or an investigator and they make a request it remain confidential
and disclosed -- that's the confidence we sought to protect," said
James Murphy, an attorney representing bishops who were defendants in
some of the cases.
Mary Ryan vs. Roman Catholic Bishop, et al.
Now comes Petitioners Thomas Ryan and Mary Ryan, plaintiffs in the matter of Mary Ryan vs. Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, A Corporation sole, C.A.No. PC 95-6524, presently pending in the Providence County Superior Court. The foundation of this lawsuit lies within the criminal conduct of Monsignor Louis W. Dunn, a Hierarchical Defendant in this matter, and has been convicted of first degree sexual assault subsequent to sexually using and abusing Plaintiff Mary Ryan for a period of years, along with other Hierarchical Defendants who created a haven for Monsignor Dunn to commit those crimes, shielding him from prosecution and holding him out to be a high ranking Hierarchical Official in good standing at the detriment of Plaintiffs' health and well being. Other Hierarchical Defendants while knowing Monsignor Dunn was engaged in felonious crimes, promoted him to the public and as well educated, sophisticated, high ranking official and served in his capacity as secretary to Bishop Russell McVinney, Vicar for Religious, Delegate of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Ecclesiastic Judge, Canon Lawyer, agent and officer of various Corporations of the diocese of Providence, Defendor of the Bond, Consultant to Bishop Louis E.Gelineau, Pastor of St.Thomas Church, psychological and spiritual counselor of, and Surrogate father sexually abused Plaintiff Mary Ryan for years. Hierarchical Defendants in furtherance of the interests of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence has continued to inflict emotional pain through their agents and officers to date Pursuant to Rule 13 of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Petitioners seeks review of Orders entered by the R.I. Superior Court Mr. Justice Krause on April 3, 2003, and April 18, 2003. These specific Orders denied Petitioners' motion to compel discovery that has been previously ordered by Justice Israel, Justice Krause, and Orders of Justice Williams on July 11, 2003. These Orders have also denied Plaintiffs request to defer the Defendants premature Motion for Summary Judgment which was previously deferred by Justice Israel. The Order of April 18, 2003, denied Plaintiffs Motion to Reconsider or a Motion to Stay on the Summary Judgment proceedings and ordered Plaintiffs to respond with pleadings to the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment by May 16, 2003. It appears on the face of his order of April 3, 2003, that Judge Krause has prejudged and granted the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment which was not before him.
On April 16, 2003, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Reconsider in response to Judge Krause's April 3, 2003 ruling. On April 18, 2003, Judge Krause reiterated his Order of April 3, 2003 and demands that Plaintiffs file their pleadings in response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on or before May 16, 2003 and denied Plaintiffs time and warned Plaintiffs that if they did not comply with that date, it may be grounds to grant the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment. He has scheduled no hearing date despite Plaintiffs' request to be heard.
Justice Krause disregarded the existence of all previous orders of Judge Israel, Management Order Number 10,12 and 14, Conferences held on February 26, 1999, and January 7, 2000, Justice Krause's rulings of July 1, and July 8, 2003 which is the law of the case. Columbus Ornamental Iron Works, Inc. v. Marin 102 R.I. 620, 240 A.2d 405 (1968), B.H.G. Inc. v. F.A.F., Inc. 784, A.2d 884, (2001). Justice Krause's decision is inconsistent with the R.I. Supreme Court's decisions of January 2002, July 11, 2002, and November 14, 2002.
Justice Krause's rulings of April 3, and April 18, 2003 are founded on extraneous information. Justice Krause relies on his notion of a changing landscape that is based on his personal view rather than the preceding Orders or the legal posture of the case. The viability of Plaintiffs claims cannot be determined until Plaintiffs are able to articulate facts, theory and supporting law properly before the Court and cannot be done until Plaintiffs complete discovery proceedings. Due to the circumstances, Plaintiffs have not had an opportunity to do so.Salvador v. Major Electric 469 A.2d 353.
Justice Krause relies his decision on the notion that Plaintiffs have engaged in some type of mediation or settlement proceedings and were dissatisfied and are the only litigants that did not accept $400,000.00 which is not true and his use of that information is improper and should have no bearing on the procedural posture of Plaintiffs' case or his reasons to deny Plaintiffs motion to compel discovery while allowing the Defendants to ignore outstanding discovery requests which significantly impacts the proof of Plaintiffs' claims and tolling theories.
Justice Krause has attempted to coerce Plaintiffs into settling on a number of occasions, which was not before him, despite Plaintiffs statements that they wanted to proceed forward with their case.
Justice Krause parrots defendants assertions in their Summary Judgment Motion as fact and argues their case for them to support his April 3, 2003, ruling. Justice Krause states that Plaintiffs are facially time barred, which is a disputed fact and can only be determined subsequent to the completion of discovery proceedings and Plaintiffs have had an opportunity to marshal discovery, articulate facts, theory and supporting law which is all consistent with preceding orders of Judge Israel, the R.I. Supreme Court and Judge Krause's rulings. of July 1 and July 8, 2002. Braggs v. Warwick Shoppers World, Inc. 102 R.I. 8, 12, 227 A.2d 582, 584 ( 1967)
Justice Israel recognized long ago that most plaintiffs had issues with the statute of limitations and tolling issues were so entangled with discovery that discovery had to be completed in order for plaintiffs to be able to prove their claim along with their tolling theories. Justice Israel was explicit in his understanding on a number of occasions to include his conferences with parties on February 26, 1999 and January of 2000, and made it a point to issue Orders consistent with that understanding and eliminate the circumstances which Plaintiffs now find themselves in.
Justice Krause has prejudiced plaintiffs claims. Justice Krause has transformed Defendants Objection into one of Summary Judgment and has apparently determined to grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment which was not before him and is inconsistent with Justice Israel's previous rulings and Justice Krause's July 1 and July 8, 2002, rulings. Justice Krause's use of case law to justify his ruling reflects two trial justices that granted summary judgment contrary to the previous justice. Plaintiffs can only conclude that he has prematurely determined the outcome of Plaintiffs' case, and transformed Plaintiffs Motion to Compel into summary Judgment. Kevorkian v. Glass, 774 A.2d 22, 24 (R.I.2001) Finally, the defendants argue that since they did not move for summary judgment by name, they could not possibly be required to secure a hearing date and give the plaintiff the proper notice. We refuse to give this argument credit since doing so would endorse and encourage parties to bury motions in pretrial memoranda or to neutrally label motions to avoid the rules of procedure.
Justice Krause has demanded that Plaintiffs respond substantively with a response by May 16, 2003, while effectively disabling their ability to prove their claim by denying Plaintiffs motion to compel the defendants to respond with outstanding discovery requests. It appears that Justice Krause demanded Plaintiffs to respond by May 16, 2003, to simply go through the motions knowing full well that he intends to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims.
Justice Krause has denied Plaintiffs their right to be heard or a continuance. Plaintiffs have just been entered as pro se on March 20, 2003 and have not had any time to prepare a substantive response to Defendants Motion for for Summary Judgment that has already been prejudged by Judge Krause due to the cirucmstances.. Discovery was previously ordered by Justice Krause, and Justice Israel and Chief Justice Williams on July 11, 2002 ordered that discovery was to proceed. Justice Krause denied Plaintiffs the right to be heard. Judge Krause on the one hand in July 1, 2002, declares:
"The landscape has changed, and the discovery horizons are much broader, aimed now at wholesale discovery for trial purposes. So too, much broader is the need of the plaintiffs in these consolidated cases as they seek to discovery pertinent information as to what the hierarchical defendants knew about an offending priest, when they knew it and what they did or failed to do in connection with that cleric all of which bears upon plaintiffs burden of proving an intentional tort at any trial of these cases.
It would be unreasonable to conclude that a court would provide a road of redress on one hand but would with the other hand, set up a roadblock to impede travel upon the very road."
Those words now ring hollow. Justice Krause on the other hand has determined that Plaintiffs' case no longer has any viability based on 37 other plaintiffs settlingtheir claims and has punished Plaintiffs for not wanting to subject themselves to the Defendants agenda.
Plaintiffs have exhausted all remedies and plead with this Honorable Court to hear them. Plaintiffs have tried to plead with Justice Krause to no avail. Plaintiffs only remedy at this juncture is to petition this Court to review Justice Krause's rulings of April 3, and April 18, 2003. Plaintiffs plead with this Court to relieve them of these Orders and any other relief that may be in the interest of justice. Plaintiffs have been placed under a serious deadline of May 16, 2003 to respond substantively to the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment knowing that it will be difficult since a substantial portion of evidence has been removed. B.H.G. Inc. v. F.A.F., Inc. 784, A.2d 884, (2001). Plaintiffs have asked Justice Krause time and to reconsider his Order of April 3, 2003, particularly since Plaintiffs have claims that are not subject to the Statute of Limitations nor does the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment apply to Monsignor Dunn. Judge Krause has denied Plaintiffs request for time in order to proceed with discovery and he has denied Plaintiffs Motion to compel, effectively disengaging the Defendants responsibility to respond to outstanding discovery requests which contradicts all previous rulings. Plaintiffs have been given a heavy burden to respond without an opportunity to prove their case. Coupled with these factors, Plaintiffs have just been entered as pro se litigants on March 20, 2003.and have not had time to proceed properly. Since October 8, 2002, Plaintiffs have been diligently working to retain counsel and have been unsuccessful as a result of circumstances that are beyond their control.
Plaintiffs have just received information from Attorney David Curtin of the R.I. Disciplinary Counsel regarding Plaintiffs Amended Complaint that was suppose to be filed in 2001 by Attorney Robinson. Although the Motions and Objections to that Amended Complaint exist and have been granted by the Court, the Amended Complaint itself does not exist in the Court file and has created even more difficulty. It is doubtful that Plaintiffs will be able to comply with the order since Justice Krause has disregarded all the preceding orders. Plaintiffs have attached a Motion for Stay for on Summary Judgment Proceedings and plead with this Court to grant a Motion to Stay until a determination as been made by this Honorable Court.
Justice Krause erred by denying Plaintiffs Motion to Compel and his ruling contradicts all previous rulings of Justice Israel, the R.I. Supreme Court and Justice Krause that Plaintiffs have relied on. Justice Krause justifies his ruling on a perceived changing landscape, which has no bearing on Plaintiffs claims nor should it be dispositive of Plaintiffs case. Justice Krause abused his discretion when he considered extraneous factors such as a settlement that other litigants were involved in and have nothing to do with Plaintiffs case. Justice Krause also abused his discretion by interjecting his own opinions and ordering parties such as a mediator and Defendants accompanied by an Ecclesiastic Judge to coerce Plaintiffs into a mediation process and placed Plaintiffs in a very bad position. Justice Krause erred and prejudged the Motion for Summary Judgment prior to the submission of pleadings on the behalf of Plaintiffs. Justice Krause erred by transforming Plaintiffs Motion to Compel into one of a summary Judgment. Justice Krause erred when he considered and argued the proposed merits of Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment. Judge Krause erred when he considered the Defendants proposed merits and weighed them as truth which was not before him and completely disregarded his own previous ruling as well as Justice Israel's previous rulings. Justice Krause's rulings of April 3, and April 18, has placed Plaintiffs' case in serious jeopardy and placed a heavy burden on plaintiffs to prove their claim while at the same time removing a significant portion of the evidence. Justice Krause has denied Plaintiffs to be heard and a continuance to have time to proceed with discovery to prepare a substantive response to the Defendants' Motion . Plaintiffs have just been entered as pro se and have had no time to proceed with discovery. There were outstanding discovery requests that Judge Krause compelled the Defendants to comply with and now he has totally disregarded those orders.. Plaintiffs have started the process to renew previous requests of outstanding discovery and are trying to do their best. It is not Plaintiffs desire to be pro se litigants but they cannot simply ignore all that they have worked so hard to accomplish to date. Justice Krause's Orders of April 3, and April 18, have effectively disregarded any proceedings in Plaintiffs' case and any claims that they may have which is fundamentally unjust.
For reasons unknown to Plaintiffs, Justice Krause has continued to subject Plaintiffs to embarrasment in the court room and has relentlessly attempted to coerce them to settle. Justice Krause has gone out of his way to create an intimidating environment to pressure Plaintiffs to settle which, as he stated on the record himself, is not his place, although he contradicts himself in his actions. Justice Krause invited Attorney Robinson back into the courtroom, as well as, Attorney Carl DeLuca during these proceedings despite Plaintiffs stating on the record and in their written communications that they did not want these attorneys anywhere near them. Another instance of Justice Krause's abuse of discretion and methods of coercion was to Order Mediators from C.M.C.I. to be present. at Attorney Steven Robinson's hearing to Withdraw. Also present at Attorney Robinson's hearing for withdrawal, accompanying the defense counsel was Monsignor Paul Theroux, an Ecclesiastic Judge. It appeared that Judge Krause anticipated his presence in that courtroom. .Judge Krause had no business imposing on Plaintiffs these coercive tactics to pressure them into a mediation process and settle to serve his agenda.
Although Plaintiffs understand that this is a civil process resulting from criminal conduct. the R.I. Constitution Article I Section 23 supports Plaintiffs rights to be compensated and to be treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity in the criminal process. Regardless of whether this is the civil process or criminal process, it is Judicial responsibility to insure that all that enter a courtroom are treated dignity and respect to preserve the public trust . . . Plaintiffs filed a Renewed Motion to Compel on February 26, 2003, and reminded Judge Krause of Plaintiffs' Constitutional rights as victims citing Article I Section 23, in response to Justice Krause's disrespect toward Plaintiffs in the courtroom Justice Krause responded by questioning whether the Plaintiffs understood that this is a civil process and not a criminal one. This civil process is a result of the Defendants criminal acts. Regardless, it is common courtesy to be respectful of anyone that enters the courtroom whether civil or criminal.
Notwithstanding the R.I. Constitution, R.I.G.L. 9 1 2 recognizes that victims should be compensated regardless of whether criminal charges are brought . Justice Krause has chosen to ignore this and disregard Plaintiffs as being difficult because they expect to proceed with their Constitutional rights. Judge Krause ignores the Constitution of the U.S., the Constitution of R.I,.R.I. State Laws, and every single Order that Justice Israel and this Court has issued in order to circumvent and short circuit the rights of Plaintiffs simply because it appears on the face that they are the only ones. Plaintiffs were the only ones who received a conviction in the criminal proceedings.
Plaintiffs simply want to proceed forward and prove the truth of their case which is that Monsignor Dunn, a Hierarchical Defendant sexually assaulted Plaintiff Mary Ryan for years, and other Hierarchical Defendants knew of Monsignor Dunn's criminal behavior long before he assaulted Plaintiff Mary Ryan and deliberately placed Monsignor Dunn in Plaintiff Mary Ryan's path knowing that it would be likely he would strike again and to date continues to cover those facts. Justice Krause should not expect Plaintiffs to ignore the substance of their lawsuit, take money and accept an agreement that there was no culpability on the part of the Defendants, and place the Defendants in a good light simply because they throw $400,000.00 at the Plaintiff. This is completely contrary to all previous proclamations of Judge Krause when he voiced loud and clear in July of 2002, to the State of R.I. his demand for disclosure from the Defendants which was consistent with all of Judge Israel's previous rulings and now rings hollow as a voice in the distance with no substance.. Justice Krause's rulings of April 3, and April 18, 2003 fly in the face of Plaintiffs and every lone victim that ever stood up to speak out and reduces this lawsuit and the protection of children to mere insignificance. . It was the lone plaintiffs who had the courage long ago to stand up and cry out and beg for justice that brought this issue to this Court, not the blindness of the public. Plaintiffs case or the viability of their claim should not be based on public clamor the same public clamor that has recessed into the bowels of silence once again and has created the illusion of a changing landscape leaving one set of Plaintiffs.visible on the horizon despite there thousands like them..
Plaintiffs do not have any other remedy to deal with the issue except
to petition this Honorable Court and seek review of Justice Krause's rulings
of April 3, 2003 and April 18, 2003. Plaintiffs plead with this Court
to grant them relief from Justice Krause's Orders of April 3, 2003 and
April 18, 2003, and grant them an emergency Stay pending this Honorable
Court's determination and any other relief that this Court may find just.
Associated Press, carried in Providence (RI) Journal-Bulletin
Providence - A Burrillville woman says a Superior Court judge tried to pressure her to settle a civil suit against the Diocese of Providence and a late priest convicted of raping her.
Mary Ryan has asked the state Supreme Court to step into the case and review orders issued by Judge Robert Krause, according to court documents. The high court will consider the requests on May 22.
Ryan is the only one of 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who did not join a $14.25-million settlement with the diocese, announced last September.
She turned down a $400,000 offer from the diocese in March to settle her suit. Ryan told Krause then she wanted to continue with her 1995 lawsuit against the diocese and the late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn.
In court documents dated May 12, Ryan said she is pursuing the case because she wants to prove diocesan officials knew about Dunn's criminal behavior.
Ryan claimed in court documents that Krause "has continued to subject plaintiffs to embarrassment in the courtroom and has relentlessly attempted to coerce them to settle."
Krause declined to comment on Ryan's allegations.
William T. Murphy, a lawyer for the diocese, said he sees no reason for the Supreme Court to step into the case.
Ryan, a mother of four, wants the high court to review two rulings issued by Krause last month. One denied her motion that the diocese be forced to respond to requests for documents. Murphy says such information would be limited to affidavits from people who wish statements they made to a priest or investigator to remain private.
The other order by Krause refused to delay consideration of the defendants' motion that Ryan's case be dismissed.
Lawyers for the church claim Ryan's case was filed after a three-year statute of limitations. Krause would not say whether he would consider dismissing the case before the Supreme Court reviews Ryan's requests.
Krause had given Ryan until yesterday to respond to the motion for dismissal.
Ryan did not immediately return a call to her home seeking comment.
By Jennifer Levitz
Toward the end of a decade of arguing over sexual-abuse lawsuits, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence warned publicly that settling out of court could mean selling Bishop Hendricken High School.
Now, some nine months after the diocese paid $14.25 million in legal settlements with 37 men and women, the sale list is out. It includes no properties that are high schools - just high end.
The diocese yesterday reached a deal to sell the bishop's Watch Hill summer home to a West Hartford, Conn., couple for $7 million. The church also auctioned off 10 pieces of furniture from the house, raising $15,000.
In a statement from the diocese yesterday, Chief Financial Officer Michael F. Sabatino said the church had also appraised several other properties, and might sell those, too.
There is the old caretaker's house, worth $1.5 million, on 10 acres on Warwick Neck, next to the 75-room Aldrich mansion - which the diocese has said it will not sell. There is a Block Island home that is "presently rented for vacations to diocesan clergy." The estimated value is $850,000.
There is vacant land in Westerly, Smithfield and Foster.
Many Catholics have been less surprised that the diocese is selling property than by the fact that the diocese owns such properties, and is now being open about it. During the litigation, lawyers and victims did their own investigations of local property rolls, since under an unusual 1901 Rhode Island law, the local Roman Catholic bishop is allowed to hold an unlimited amount of land, tax-free, in a company under his name only, with virtually no reporting requirements to the state.
Phyllis M. Hutnak, of Charlestown, who settled her sexual-abuse lawsuit against the diocese in September, was one of those people who scoured property records.
"A lot of people thought they would lose their churches and their schools [if the diocese settled]," she recalled.
"We never believed they didn't have the funding, or that they didn't have the ability to pull it together."
The proceeds from the sale of the 16-room Watch Hill mansion, called Cardome, will help repay the lines of credit borrowed last year to pay for the lawsuits.
Bishop Robert E. Mulvee said immediately after the settlements in September that he wouldn't dip into charity dollars to pay the church's legal debt. He said the settlements would be paid from certain reserves, pending insurance claims and the sale of church property not related to ministry.
"The property at Watch Hill was one of the first to come to mind," he said yesterday, in a statement. "It has served several bishops very well as a place of summer retreat. Many other priests of the diocese have also used the property. It is sad to see it go, but its value to us as a summer residence pales in comparison to its value in bringing a healing response to victims of sexual abuse."
Paul Daqui, of West Hartford, Conn., bought the Watch Hill house in the sale that closed yesterday. Daqui is a commercial real-estate developer, but, he said, his plans for the oceanfront home are personal, not business. It will be a private family home.
"It's one of the top 10 houses on the Rhode Island shore," he said. "It's just a beautiful location."
The house came to belong to the diocese because of Marion de St. Aubin, a Providence Catholic. She died in the winter of 1942, from pneumonia, heart troubles, and, according to her death certificate, a second-degree burn on her thigh from a heating pad.
According to her will, she left her nieces and nephews $500. She left her brother-in-law silverware and linen marked with the family name. She left the church her greatest gifts: $5,000 to her parish, and the rest of her estate to Bishop Francis P. Keough, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Providence. That included her Watch Hill home, which was worth $35,000 at the time.
Five years later, Bishop Keough was named the archbishop of Baltimore. The house was transferred from Bishop Keough's estate to succeeding bishops in Rhode Island.
The sexual-abuse lawsuits across the nation have moved many of the nearly 192 dioceses to consider paring down. David Clohessy, the executive director of the national organization the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the Providence diocese's plans are among the more substantial.
"Certainly dozens of dioceses have suggested the sale of property," he said. "But I would say that you can count on one or two hands the number of dioceses that actually have."
Edward J. Greenan, a former Navy captain who lives in Jamestown, is the Rhode Island regional coordinator for Voice of the Faithful, the network of Catholics that formed last year in a church basement in Wellesley, Mass., calling for change. Some 90 or so Rhode Island Catholics meet monthly in a parish in South County as part of Voice of the Faithful. Greenan said yesterday that a few things struck him about the diocese's sale of property.
One was that the diocese has "all this property a lot of people don't know about."
Also, he commended the diocese's openness about what the settlements are costing.
"More and more," he said, "they need to open the records and let the diocese know what this has cost them in the last 30 years."
Correction: May 30, 2003
Because of errors in a news release from the Diocese of Providence, two
incorrect property appraisals were published in a story yesterday about
the sale of diocesan properties. The correct appraisals are: the caretaker's
house on Warwick Neck is appraised at $850,000, including approximately
two acres. The Spring Street residence on Block Island is appraised at
By Michael Mello
"Gentlemen, why can't we mediate?" asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams, who'd once helped settle a bitter dispute between the state and its prison guards.
This time, he was talking to attorneys who for a decade had tangled over claims of abuse by clergy members. His encouragement within weeks helped settle 36 of 38 cases involving 11 accused priests and a nun.
The settlement, announced a year ago Tuesday, set a precedent for how new allegations will be handled in the nation's most Catholic state.
A total of 37 cases were eventually settled for more than $14 million. Last month, a Superior Court judge dismissed the lone remaining case of alleged clergy abuse. Judge Robert Krause ruled Mary Ryan of Burrillville, who'd turned down a $400,000 settlement offer, waited too long to file her civil case.
Ryan wanted to force the diocese to turn over whatever records it had on accused clergy members.
But the diocese has been able to avoid the forced release of documents that in Massachusetts and other states showed the depth of the church's tolerance of alleged abusers. The Boston archdiocese is negotiating to settle with lawyers for more than 540 alleged clergy sex abuse victims, many of whom came forward after a court-ordered release of church documents.
The Providence diocese for the first time last week acknowledged other allegations of abuse by clergy members. It hopes to resolve the cases - more than 20, according to attorney Tim Conlon, who represented many who settled last year - without going to court.
To Phyllis Hutnak, who settled her claim she was seduced by a priest when she was a teenager, "the diocese has what it wants, things are quiet."
"They can't prove to me this will never happen again until they disclose the documents," the Charlestown woman said.
With no pending lawsuits pressing the diocese, she says the attorney general's office needs to step in and investigate.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly recently issued a report that priests and other workers likely molested 1,000 people since 1940.
Rhode Island Deputy Attorney General Gerald Coyne noted that the damning report did not lead to criminal charges, due to weak state laws in place at the time of the incidents. The report also included information the archdiocese was forced to release due to lawsuits.
"In Rhode Island, the vast majority chose to settle," Coyne said. "Some people look to use a place of last resort but that's not our role."
Coyne said last week he's had discussions for nearly two years with the Providence diocese about a formal reporting process for abuse allegations that's "85 percent worked out."
The diocese has assured him it's received no reports warranting a criminal investigation.
"I take the diocese at their word, until proven otherwise," Coyne said.
Justice Williams believes a settlement was better than a protracted dissection of the diocese's handling of allegations of clergy abuse.
"This was good for everybody, the diocese, priests and the victims, who got to sound off with ... the bishop," Williams said.
Before Williams was a lower court order that could have forced the diocese to release secret documents to attorneys for alleged victims.
He pushed for settlement, as he'd done in countless other cases. As a Superior Court judge in 2000, he mediated an end to a four-year contract dispute between the state and its prison guards.
"You don't need a forum such as the court to go through every gory detail," Williams said of the church abuse cases. "I don't think we need that as a culture."
He also encouraged the diocese and attorneys for plaintiffs to work out a protocol for mediating future cases.
William T. Murphy, the diocese's attorney, said documents the diocese fought to keep secret involved interviews conducted by a church investigator with "lay people who came forward after lawsuits started."
Preserving their secrecy, he said, "is not important to the diocese, it is important to the people themselves." They came forward "with the understanding it would never be public."
Some who've settled, like Woonsocket's Dan Heroux, are glad they did.
"It comes down to being able to let certain situations go," Heroux told The Associated Press in March. "To me, it's closed."
Others, like Hutnak, 53, insist disclosure, not money, was what they were after.
"I still go to counseling and have had serious losses of family,
friends and faith," she said Monday. "The pain stays with you,
money doesn't help that go away."
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