Settlement Close in Clergy Abuse Cases

By Tom Kisken, Tamara Koehler
Ventura County Star [California]
July 14, 2007

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles may be close to paying more than half a billion dollars to settle 500 remaining priest sexual abuse cases, including dozens linked to Ventura County, according to news reports.

The Associated Press reported Saturday the parties had reached a settlement, citing two confidential sources with knowledge of the agreement. Others said the announcement was premature but that a settlement may be near.

An official statement from attorneys for the victims and the archdiocese, which also includes Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, is expected Monday.

The settlement amount, if finalized, would be at least $650 million — the largest payout by the church since the sex abuse scandals first surfaced in 2002, according to the wire service. Victims would receive $1.2 million to $1.3 million each. The release of priests' personnel files is also a possible condition of the settlement.

Attorneys and advocates for the victims said Saturday afternoon that they were still working on an agreement and amount, according to other reports.

"The latest we're hearing is that there is no settlement," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "They're talking, they're close, they're hopeful but we're essentially advising victims to be ready for anything on Monday: Trials, full settlement, partial settlement or a postponement."

The first of the cases is scheduled for jury selection Monday. A judge has ruled that Cardinal Roger Mahony must testify in one of the pending cases.

Contacted Saturday, Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, would not discuss the possibility of a settlement.

"All I can tell you is the archdiocese is going to be in court Monday morning at 9:30," Tamberg said. "I can't even draw you a picture."

Ventura County victims had mixed feelings about a settlement.

Ann Sargent, who claims she was molested at 15 by the Rev. Roderic M. Guerrini when he served at Santa Clara Church in Oxnard, said a settlement would bring peace for the first time in three decades.

"But I'll believe it when it happens," said Sargent, 45, who now lives in Washington. "Up until now, the clock has been held still and for a lot of us, for myself, time has stood still. I think finally with the settlement if it really happens, the clock will begin ticking again."

Manny Vega, an Oxnard police officer who says he was molested as a boy by the Rev. Fidencio Silva of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oxnard, wants the church held accountable publicly.

"The only true feeling or emotion there is anger," he said. "People are going to say Hey, just shut up and be happy they paid you off.' The reality is that they dodged a bullet."

Sargent and Vega are both suing the archdiocese.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims so far.

More than 500 other lawsuits against the archdiocese remained unresolved. Many of those were filed after the state Legislature passed a law in 2002 lifting the statute of limitations on reporting sexual abuse for one year.


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