Final Payments Being Made in Covington Church Abuse Case

Associated Press, carried in Lexington Herald-Leader
November 22, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The final payments are going out to victims of sexual abuse in the $85 million class-action settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington.

Each of the more than 350 victims in the case will receive 100 percent of what two special masters determined they should get.

While the money helps, it doesn't heal old wounds caused by sexual abuse and doesn't absolve the church from its responsibility to victims, say two abuse victims who now work as advocates for others.

"Sadly, settlement alone does not equal recovery," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, who works as outreach coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The settlement is between the Covington Diocese and more than 350 people abused by priests and diocese employees since the 1950s in 57 counties across a large swath of Kentucky. It calls for victims to receive from $5,000 to $1 million based on the severity and duration of the abuse they suffered. Some money has also been set aside to pay for counseling for abuse victims.

The settlement master in the case approved the final payments last week, said attorney Stan Chesley, who represents the victims in the case. The payments should be in the hands of the plaintiffs by the end of the month, Chesley said.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, said the payments do compensate victims, but are also a business decision by the church to "prevent embarrassing trials." Without the lawsuit, it is unlikely the church would have acknowledged or compensated the victims, Clohessy said.

"Few, if any, of these brave victims would have achieved a scintilla of closure and justice had they not found the courage to speak up and the wisdom to get legal help," Clohessy said.

Clohessy and Dorris said victims should continue to come forward and report priests and church officials who have sexually abused them in the past and the church should deal with those people.

"The bishop's responsibility doesn't end here," Clohessy said.

Calls and e-mails sent to a Diocese of Covington spokesman and an attorney on Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned.

Covington is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The Covington diocese now spans 14 counties and has 89,000 parishioners. The lawsuit also covers some Kentucky counties that were part of the diocese until 1988, when a new diocese in Lexington formed.


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