Church Abuse Back in Court

By Brett Barrouquere
Associated Press, carried in The Cincinnati Post
January 9, 2006

Receiving a settlement check for sexual abuse at the hands of a priest didn't stop Kay Montgomery's memories of what happened to her.

Montgomery, who settled with the church in January 2005 for an undisclosed amount, thinks victims in the class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington will find a similar lack of satisfaction.

"It would be nice if it were that easy," said the woman abused as a teenager in the 1960s by a priest from Blessed Sacrament Church in Fort Mitchell, Ky. "We still have to live our lives and deal with what happened to us."

The victims in the case against the Covington Diocese have another day in court today when Judge John W. Potter is expected to rule on whether to grant final approval to the proposed settlement of up to $120 million, which would let the church and insurance companies begin paying some of the 373 victims - among the largest pools of known victims in the country. The hearing is in Boone County Circuit Court .

The settlement, announced in June, calls for the diocese to contribute $40 million to the fund, with its insurance carriers contributing up to $80 million. The diocese, plaintiffs and insurance companies had not announced a settlement in a separate federal lawsuit as of Friday.

If the full $120 million amount is paid out, it would be the largest such settlement fund in the nation.

Victims would get awards ranging from $5,000 to $450,000, based on severity of abuse, and those in the highest category would be eligible to apply to a special fund for extraordinary claims.

Plaintiff's attorney Stan Chesley said settling the lawsuit against the insurance companies and getting approval for the settlement with the diocese is the best way to close the case for the victims.

"It's such a sensitive issue," he said. "It's the best way to know we have a measure of justice."

Richard Lillick, 63, who has identified himself as a victim who was molested starting in 1957, said the settlement treats victims with dignity and helps close the issue for some.

"It's an attempt to root out a very grotesque cancer that's been eating at the diocese for years and years," he said.

"I can't imagine anything better from our point of view."

But financial settlements don't always "get to the core" of the problem, said William McMurry, a Louisville attorney who helped negotiate a $25.7 million settlement in the sex abuse case against the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003.

"What the victims have always wanted was to make a difference, to see more than an apology from the current archbishop," he said.

Dealing with sexual abuse is "kind of an evolving, long process," and while a financial settlement is some acknowledgment or responsibility, it doesn't end the healing process, Montgomery said. "You root for that big day ... but it doesn't make all the difference. It's not about money at all. It won't be the end of it."


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