Oakland Diocese Settles Remaining Suits with Victims Alleging Abuse

By Kim Curtis
Associated Press, carried in San Francisco Chronicle [Oakland CA]
August 5, 2005

The Oakland diocese has agreed to pay $56 million to settle its remaining lawsuits filed by 56 alleged victims of priest sexual abuse, the diocese announced Friday.

The global settlement is a series of individual settlements with each remaining victim who alleged abuse by Oakland priests, according to plaintiffs' attorneys. Negotiations took more than four months and were overseen by an Alameda County Superior Court judge.

"It is my heartfelt hope that reaching this resolution will help victim-survivors move forward ever more securely along the path of healing," Diocese of Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron said in a statement Friday.

"I take this occasion to reiterate once more my commitment ... to insure the safety of children and young people in our church community. I renew my apology to victim-survivors, to their families and to the whole community for the great harm that has been done by those priests who have sexually abused minors."

Larry Drivon, a Stockton lawyer who represents half of the alleged victims, called the settlement "adequate and fair."

But, he added: "There is no amount of money that can ever bring back the stolen innocence and destroyed faith that sexual molestation by a child's priest causes."

The settlement means at least 15 trials set to begin in upcoming months were canceled, said plaintiffs' lawyers.

The diocese will pay $25 million of the settlement; the rest will come from insurers. The diocese's portion of the payment will be funded through a loan and sale of diocesan assets.

Other dioceses also have recently agreed to global settlements.

In June, the Diocese of Santa Rosa agreed to pay $10.6 million to settle nine of the lawsuits filed in 2002 and 2003 alleging sexual misconduct by three North Coast priests. One sex abuse claim against the diocese remains.

The Diocese of Sacramento also has agreed to pay $35 million to 33 victims, resolving all pending abuse lawsuits against the diocese.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has settled about half its abuse cases. It faces trials next month on several claims brought by alleged victims of former Monsignor Patrick O'Shea. O'Shea, who was defrocked in 1994, has been jailed twice on child abuse and embezzlement charges.

The Stockton and Monterey dioceses have a small number of cases remaining against each of them, according to plaintiffs' lawyer Rick Simons. The Fresno diocese has about a dozen cases pending, Simons said.

About 160 Northern California civil suits were filed when the state in 2002 temporarily lifted time limits for sex abuse claims. More than 750 civil lawsuits were filed against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide.