Payout Is No Relief for Abuse Victims

By Eric Convey
Boston Globe
December 21, 2003

With trepidation and in some cases tinges of regret, 541 people who said they were sexually abused by priests learned yesterday the amounts they will receive from the Archdiocese of Boston.

"This money means nothing to me. In a way I wish I didn't have it," said a tearful Alexa MacPherson, who says she was sexually molested by a Dorchester priest for years and is getting less than $ 250,000. "This is a road I wish I wasn't even on."

"I thought I'd feel light-hearted," she said. "Instead I feel weighed down. . . . I feel like a price has been put on my head. That's not what I wanted."

William Oberle, a tradesman who said his settlement equals about a year's pay, said plaintiffs feel almost like "prostitutes" now that they've been compensated financially for having been sexually violated.

Oberle plans to use his money to pay for his daughter's education.

Most plaintiffs will get between $ 80,000 and $ 300,000 before lawyers' fees are taken out.

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who authorized the $ 85 million settlement and the sale of church property to augment the insurance receipts that will pay for it, issued a statement yesterday saying, "It's consoling to learn that the arbitration process has come to an end and that the survivors who participated in this process have been notified of the decisions of the arbitrators."

"We understand that no sum of money can adequately compensate them for the suffering they have endured," O'Malley said, but he hopes the conclusion of this process "will provide survivors and their loved ones with some measure of healing and peace."

O'Malley also praised chief arbitrator Paul Finn, whose firm - Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation Inc. - heard each plaintiff's story and then set an award amount.

"The fact that so many cases were addressed in the face of time constraints and other challenges speaks volumes about their commitment, perseverance and skill," he said.

John King, who did not disclose the amount he received, said his thoughts focused yesterday on "some of us who are victims who are not here - who couldn't live with it."

At least one of the 541 settlements was to the family of a victim who committed suicide.

Oberle, his anger undiminished over the past year, said yesterday that priests who molested children deserve the harshest punishment the church can hand out.

"They need to be not just defrocked, they need to be excommunicated," he said. "They need to be damned to hell . . . damned to the same place they sent us."

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who brokered 120 settlements for his clients, said he has more cases in the works - including another one filed Friday alleging abuse against the late Rev. William Cummings.

For those whose cases will end with the receipt of checks this coming week, Garabedian said, "The arbitration has ended, but the pain hasn't."


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