BR Catholic Diocese Settles Abuse Lawsuit

By Adrian Angelette
The Advocate
November 22, 2006

A seventh former south Louisiana altar boy who claims an ex-Baton Rouge area priest molested him in the 1970s has settled his lawsuit with the diocese.

Exact terms of the agreement are confidential, but the attorney for the diocese said Tuesday the case was settled for less than $100,000.

All seven claims of sexual abuse that have settled, and another seven that remain active in the 19th Judicial District Court, allege that former priest Christopher Springer molested altar boys.

The lawsuits filed by the former altar boys also claim the diocese was aware, or should have been aware, of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

Instead, the diocese moved Springer to other churches where the abuse continued, the lawsuits allege.

Charles Cusimano, attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, said that, in addition to the 14 ex-altar boys who have sued, others have made claims directly to church officials.

Those cases also have been investigated. As with the Springer cases, if the cases are found to have merit, the church offers counseling and other help for the former altar boy, he said.

"None of those have made allegations against Springer," Cusimano said.

While he would not name the priest who had committed the other alleged molestations, Cusimano said that "none of the complaints are against priests currently serving in the diocese."

In an attempt to determine whether the allegations have merit, Cusimano said insurance company attorneys for the diocese get details of the allegations and compare them to complaints leveled against a priest.

For example, Cusimano said, at one point Springer worked in the Clinton area and had a trailer there.

Attorneys ask if the former altar boy could give details of the trailer or the church rectory, he said.

The only other settlement terms that have become public involve a lawsuit filed by Patrick Meyers, the only altar boy whose name has been affixed to a lawsuit against Springer.

The diocese has filed a lawsuit against its insurer, Lloyds of London, for $72,000 it paid to Meyers.

The amount paid to Meyers actually was more than $100,000, Cusimano said. More than one insurance company paid on the claim because the allegations covered several years from the 1970s to the early 1980s.

Despite settling seven claims against Springer and those involving other former priests, Cusimano said, most of the settlement money is coming from insurance companies.

"The diocese is actually paying very little of these settlements," he said.

Houston attorney Felecia Peavy represents all the former altar boys who have made claims against Springer.

Peavy said she would not disclose terms of any of the settlements. But she was able to say that the most recent is by a former altar boy who lives in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Peavy also said that the abuse occurred between 1976 and 1979, when Springer was at St. Pius X Catholic Church.

The Very Rev. John Carville has said in the past that Springer was one of six priests removed from the diocese after allegations were made that he had molested boys.



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