Conn. Diocese to Pay $21m in Settlement

By John Christoffersen
The Ledger [Bridgeport Conn]
October 16, 2003

The Bridgeport Diocese announced a $21 million settlement Thursday with 40 people who said they were molested by priests as children, and the bishop publicly apologized to the victims.

The payout is believed to be the third-biggest settlement by a U.S. diocese since the scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church broke in Boston in 2002.

"Let me express my personal remorse and the remorse of the entire diocese for the harm that was caused in the lives of so many individuals," Bishop William Lori said. He said the settlement is an effort to "do what is right, just and compassionate."

Lori said all but one of the 16 priests named in the settlement are no longer active in the church. The Rev. Martin Ryan was accused of misconduct with a 17-year-old woman 25 years ago and is not considered a threat to children, church officials said. Three of the priests are dead.

"This settlement represents vindication for all the survivors of clergy sex abuse and is an acknowledgment of their very personal ordeals," said Cindy Robinson, an attorney representing the victims.

The victims suffered problems including depression, difficulties with relationships and attempted suicides after their abuse, said Jason Tremont, another attorney for the victims.

"They're really a great bunch of people that went through a living hell," Tremont said.

The settlement is the second in two years for the diocese, which covers some of the wealthiest towns in the country, including Greenwich, Westport and New Canaan. The diocese reached prior settlements totaling $16.7 million and involving 47 claims of sexual abuse, church officials said.

"I would like to thank God for finally bringing this journey to an end and my prayer now is that all of the survivors and their families find closure and peace of mind," said Mario O. Jaiman, one of the victims.

Jaiman, 38, said he was abused several times, starting at the age of nine. "It causes you to assume guilt for an act you have no control over," he said.

Lori said most of the alleged abuse took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Attorneys for the victims, however, said the abuse continued into the early 1990s, when New York Cardinal Edward Egan was Bridgeport bishop.

Victims have claimed in lawsuits against the Bridgeport Diocese that when their parents complained about the abuse to diocesan officials and were told it would "be taken care of." Instead, they said, the offending priests were moved to other parishes.

The law firm representing the victims said in a statement Thursday that it "believes that the Diocese of Bridgeport, including Cardinal Egan, allowed known sex abusers to continue on as active priests, enabling these offenders to have contact with children."

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined comment. Egan served in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

Also this year, the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., reached a $6.5 million settlement with 61 people; the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., agreed to pay $25.7 million to 243 people; and the Boston Archdiocese reached a tentative $85 million settlement with more than 500 people.

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