15 Cases of Priest Abuse Settled
$8 Million Payout by Archdiocese

By Mickey Ciokajlo
Chicago Tribune
October 3, 2003

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago will pay slightly more than $8 million to 15 adults who, as minors, were molested by its priests, bringing to $13.9 million the amount the church has agreed to pay this year to victims of sexual abuse.

As part of the settlement announced Thursday, the archdiocese also agreed that if any more priests are removed from ministry because of credible abuse allegations, it will post their names, past assignments and present status on its Web site for 30 days.

[Photo captions: Mike Nugent, 58, who said he was abused in 1959 by Marion Snieg, then of St. Jane de Chantal parish on the Southwest Side, speaks at Thursday's news conference in Chicago. Tribune photo by Chris Walker. Stan Cwikla of Lake Villa, a victim of abuse by a priest, talks to reporters Thursday about the archdiocese settlement. Tribune photo by Chris Walker.]

Some advocates said that effort falls short and called on officials to post the histories of all of its abusive priests indefinitely.

"They're making it so difficult for anyone to get the information," said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "Why don't they put it out there and keep it out there?"

Archdiocese officials said they will make information about all the priests available either in writing or by phone to those who seek it out. They have yet to work out the details but promised to describe the process on the Web site by Jan. 15.

The archdiocese also agreed to other measures, including making an annual donation of $35,000 for at least the next two years to create conferences that would promote healing for abuse victims and the prevention of sexual misconduct.

"A measure of accountability and a measure of justice, at least now, has begun to be delivered by way of this settlement," said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul lawyer who represented the 15 abuse victims.

The settlement was the culmination of months of mediation involving the archdiocese and 19 of Anderson's clients. In July, four clients who said they were abused by former priest Vincent McCaffrey reached a settlement of slightly more than $4 million. Also in July, the archdiocese agreed to pay $1.9 million to another victim of McCaffrey.

Thursday's settlement involves 10 men and five women who contend they were abused by 11 priests, all of whom are now either dead, have resigned or were withdrawn from ministry, according to Anderson and a statement issued by the archdiocese.

The abuse occurred between 1954 and 1991 and the victims' ages at the time ranged from 8 to 18, Anderson said. The individual settlements range from $200,000 to $1.7 million.

As part of the settlement, Cardinal Francis George, Catholic archbishop of Chicago, has agreed to meet with the victims.

In a written statement issued Thursday, archdiocesan chancellor Jimmy Lago said the archdiocese extends "a sincere apology to the survivors involved in these settlements and, indeed, to all survivors, their families and communities.

"Nothing representatives of the archdiocese do today can make up for the abuse inflicted on victims of clerical sexual misconduct," the statement said.

The payments will be funded through insurance and the sale of undeveloped property, the statement said.

Anderson said he has been contacted by several other victims since the mediation process began with the archdiocese. He said he anticipates using the same process to settle those claims.

Of the 15 who settled Thursday, only one had filed a lawsuit, he said.

Lago said church officials have encouraged victims to come forward and are open to using mediation with others.

Lago said he thought Thursday's announcement had settled the majority of the cases. However, as an example of how the issue is unlikely to go away soon, a different lawyer filed a lawsuit Thursday naming the archdiocese and Daniel Holihan, who was removed from ministry last year.

The archdiocese said it agreed to post on its Web site only the names of priests being removed from ministry over new abuse allegations. Anderson said he had thought the archdiocese would post, for 30 days, information regarding all past priest allegations.

"That is a detail that needs to be ironed out," he said.

Anderson announced the settlement at the Radisson Hotel & Suites in downtown Chicago. Four of the victims spoke to the media.

Mike Nugent, 58, said he was abused in 1959 by Marion Snieg, then of St. Jane de Chantal parish on the Southwest Side, shortly after Nugent finished 8th grade.

Nugent said he told his father, who contacted church officials and was later told the archdiocese would "take care of" Snieg.

"I really felt at that point that I had done something positive, that it had stopped," said Nugent, who now lives in Arlington, Va.

Nugent said he decided to come forward after hearing a news report about abuse cases in Boston. He recalled one report indicating that Chicago had no alleged abuse cases prior to 1970.

"I said 'Wait a minute. What about me? Mine happened in 1959,'" Nugent said.

Snieg retired in January 2002 and withdrew from all public ministry in May 2002.

The other priests and former priests named in Thursday's settlement were William J. Cloutier, Kenneth Ruge and Robert C. Becker, all of whom are dead; and Daniel Buck, James Hagan, Walter Huppenbauer, John "Jack" Keough, Joseph P. Kissane, Norbert Maday and Raymond Skriba.


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