Boston Archdiocese Sex Abuse Settlement Rejected

By Belinda Yu Tue
Leading the Charge [Boston MA]
January 4, 2006

BOSTON - Lawyers for victims of sexual abuse by priests rejected on Tuesday a settlement offer by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston that they called "demeaning," "cruel," and "immoral."

The archdiocese has offered average payments of $75,000 per person to settle claims from about 100 people who say they were sexually abused during a pedophile priest scandal that surfaced in Boston in 2002 and spread to other U.S. parishes.

"Every part of the proposal is unacceptable," Carmen Durso, a lawyer representing 33 plaintiffs, told a news conference.

In a 2003 settlement with 540 victims of sexual abuse, the Boston archdiocese paid an average award of $153,000, or a total of about $85 million.

The Archdiocese of Boston said last week that it hopes "to compensate those survivors who have been abused by priests of the archdiocese and to do so in a way that is just and sensitive to the pastoral needs of the survivors."

The lawyers said the deal was flawed because it excludes victims of sexual molestation by priests ordained outside of Boston. It was also not clear how many of a total 200 plaintiffs would be entitled to awards, the lawyers said.

"I don't believe that these victims were any less molested than the other victims," said Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer representing 55 plaintiffs. "This is supposed to be a moral institution, not an accounting firm," he added.

The abuse scandal prompted a decline in donations at churches across the United States. Squeezed by the cost of past payouts, the Boston diocese has closed more than 60 churches and schools, triggering protests by parishioners.

The attorneys said the church's proposal would split pending cases into three tiers by merit.

A group of 100 Tier One plaintiffs would give an arbitrator discretion to award payments of up to $200,000, with an average payment of $75,000 per client.

Thirty Tier Two plaintiffs must go to court to decide whether or not abuse had occurred. Seventy Tier Three plaintiffs are excluded from any settlement.

One problem with this system, the lawyers said, is that the church would unilaterally decide if individual cases have merit. They added that the Archdiocese's offer does not guarantee payment to any client.

"There is no certainty to these offers," Durso said. "None of our clients have received an actual offer." The lawyers plan to make a counter-proposal in two to three weeks.

The scandal in Boston began when it became known that former leaders of the archdiocese, including then Cardinal Bernard Law, left known pedophiles in active ministry or shuttled them from church to church without notifying parishioners.

Law resigned in December 2002 after dozens of his own priests publicly called on him to step down, but the effects of the scandal still linger.


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