Plaintiffs Ask for $66 Million to Start Claims Fund

The Associated Press, carried in Corvallis Gazette
February 13, 2006

PORTLAND — Lawyers for sex abuse victims asked a bankruptcy court judge Monday to have the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland put up $66 million to start a trust fund to pay claims.

The archdiocese had offered $42 million.

The two sides disputed the terms of the counteroffer.

Albert Kennedy, a lawyer for those who have filed sex abuse claims, said the church wouldn't have to sell churches or schools to pay the claims, even if those claims eventually reached as high as $110 million.

Kennedy said the archdiocese has significant assets, such as commercial buildings, parking lots and property it is holding for development.

"They're (the archdiocese) fostering fear on the part of their parishioners,'' despite knowing there's no risk that churches or schools would be sold as part of a settlement, Kennedy said.

Nevertheless, said Howard Levine, attorney for the archdiocese, Kennedy's proposal would require the church to put deeds to all its real estate into a trust fund, which means they could be sold if required. The archdiocese has resisted the potential sale of church buildings or schools.

It said Monday that it "cannot support a plan that fails to take into account the needs of innocent parishioners, who have generously donated money, property, time and labor to build churches and schools in order to provide places of religious worship and for the education of their children.''

The two sides were to meet Tuesday in a court hearing on the archdiocese's bankruptcy filing.

In 2004, the archdiocese became the first in the United States to file for bankruptcy in the face of claims from plaintiffs alleging that priests had abused them. The archdiocese has since filed a plan for reorganizing, and the filing Monday was the response of the plaintiffs.


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