Archdiocese to Pay $16 Million
22 of 23 Lawsuits about San Jose Priest Have Been Settled

By Kelly St. John
San Francisco Chronicle [San Francisco CA]
July 10, 2005

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has agreed to pay $16 million to 12 people who were molested by a San Jose priest during the 1970s, a move that largely resolves one of Northern California's most notorious cases of clergy sexual abuse.

Attorneys announced the settlement for victims of the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard on Friday. A clergy abuse trial involving two of Pritchard's victims had been set to begin Monday in San Francisco Superior Court.

The settlement is similar to one reached last month with 10 other plaintiffs who said they were molested by Pritchard when he was a priest at St. Martin of Tours parish in San Jose.

"This brings to a close one of the worst chapters in San Francisco Archdiocese clergy abuse," said Rick Simons, a Hayward attorney who represented the plaintiffs. "With the exposure of Father Pritchard and his appalling history, we see hopefully a chapter that never gets reopened."

"No amount of money could give me back the things this man took away from me," said one of the plaintiffs, Dennis Kavenaugh, 47, of San Jose. "It wasn't about the money. It was about someone finally saying this happened, and what can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again."

In all, 22 of the 23 lawsuits related to Pritchard have been settled, Simons said. One remains in the courts, filed in San Mateo County by a nephew of Pritchard's, who alleged he was abused in the 1950s before Pritchard came to St. Martin, Simons said.

"It is our hope that the settlement of these cases will facilitate the process of healing for these victims," Archbishop William Levada said in a statement. "I again express to these victims, and all other victims of the clergy child abuse scandals, my sincere apology for the pain they have endured. "

The Diocese of San Jose was not a party in either settlement because it was not established until 1981. Catholic churches in the South Bay were supervised by the Archdiocese of San Francisco before that, when the abuse took place.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed by alleged victims of clergy abuse in California in 2003 under a state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on damage claims against organizations that gave known molesters access to more victims.

Church officials did not disclose how much of the $16 million settlement will come from insurance and how much will be paid by the archdiocese, except that the church's contribution will be "in the millions." Two of the 12 victims already had won jury verdicts earlier this year, including Kavenaugh, and the jury awards were included in the settlement.

The settlement will not be paid from parish or school funds, Levada said in his statement.

In June, the archdiocese agreed to pay $21.5 million to 15 others who were molested by five clergymen. Ten of those cases involved Pritchard, who died in 1988.

Nearly two dozen people came forward to describe how the popular parish priest plied them with soda and candy, then fondled them under their clothes.

Most of the victims did not tell their parents at the time, but one father said he wrote a letter to church officials in San Francisco in 1977 after his son described the abuse. Simons said many victims were abused after that letter was written because the church failed to act.

Church officials said they have no record of that complaint.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has now resolved about half of the cases in which it is named as the primary defendant, Levada said.

Abuse scandal to cost Catholic Church at least $2 billion, predicts lay leader The chairman of the Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful predicted Saturday that the clergy sexual abuse scandal eventually will cost U. S. dioceses $2 billion to $3 billion.

Speaking in Indianapolis at the first national meeting of the group in three years, chairman David Castaldi urged leaders of local affiliates to press their bishops for better financial reporting as individual dioceses post large payouts to abuse victims, lawyers and others.

Boston, where the scandal first erupted more than three years ago before spreading nationwide, reached an $85 million settlement with 552 people in 2003. The Diocese of Orange in Southern California settled 90 abuse claims for $100 million in December, followed by last month's settlement of $120 million by the Diocese of Covington, Ky.

The bankrupt Diocese of Portland, Ore., faces claims topping $500 million, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will settle cases for at least $500 million and perhaps as much as $1.5 billion, Castaldi said.

"We can now see total direct costs of $2 billion to $3 billion," he said.