Friday's Editorial: Priest Abuse Settlement

Kansas City Star
August 21, 2008

It took years and dozens of lawsuits, but the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has tentatively agreed to a $10 million settlement for 47 people who said they were sexually abused by priests.

In a news conference Wednesday, Bishop Robert W. Finn apologized for the "fully unacceptable behavior that prompted these lawsuits to be brought against the Diocese " He expressed compassion for the victims and "institutional accountability" for the cases.

It was a long time coming. Assuming the settlement is approved by two diocesan boards, the agreement should help close an ugly chapter in the history of the diocese.

The 47 plaintiffs said they had been molested as youths, mostly from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Some critics said that rather than deal with the problem, the diocese covered up the incidents and moved priests from parish to parish. Priests contacted by The Star in reporting these cases over the years denied the allegations.

At least two of the dozen priests have died. Most have left the priesthood or been barred from performing church-related duties.

The diocese pledged to continue programs to educate church workers and clergy about what's acceptable. These steps include tougher policies covering priests and others who deal with children, including full compliance with state laws on reporting child abuse. Any priest credibly accused of abuse must be removed pending an investigation.

According to a code of ethics, priests and diocesan leaders are cautioned that any contact with children beyond a handshake "should only occur under appropriate public circumstances."

It took an inexcusably long period of time for the church to reach this point, but perhaps it may provide some comfort to those whose trust was betrayed at a fragile time in their lives.


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