Bridgeport Diocese Says It Has Paid Out $52 Million in Priest Sex-Abuse Settlements Since 1953
By Dave Altimari
October 31, 2018
|The late Cardinal Edward Egan smiles to the crowd gathered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral after celebrating his final Easter mass as archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York in 2009. Egan was accused of transferring pedophile priests when he served in Bridgeport.|
Photo by Mario Tama
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport paid $52.5 million to settle 156 allegations of priest sexual abuse of children since 1953 and the church is still paying eight priests who abused children, the diocesan leader said Wednesday.
It is the first time that the diocese has given an overview of how much the priest-abuse scandal has cost. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano had promised to give a financial accounting in a letter to parishioners in September.
The diocese has hired former state Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg to report on how it has handled allegations of sexual abuse. His report is due in the spring.
The diocese has been criticized for keeping secret many of the claims against its priests and for protecting priests who faced multiple abuse claims. One of its most notorious priests, Laurence Brett, fled the country and hid for years, while others were moved to other churches in the diocese with impunity. Former Bishop Edward R. Egan once said in a deposition that sexual abuse by clergy "happen in such small numbers.”
The diocese report released this week doesn’t identify priests or provide details of the allegations. It does reveal:
Settlement payments ranged from $3,000 to $1,425,000. The average settlement was $337,000.
An analysis determined that 87.8% of the settlements, totaling $46.2 million, were for allegations of abuse against 12 priests, each with multiple claims against them. One priest had claims that resulted in payments of $11.9 million.
Eight priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor receive financial assistance from the diocese consisting of monthly payments ranging from $1,319 - $1,466 and totaling $135,460 in 2018. The money comes from the sale of diocesan properties.
Since the early 1990s, the diocese has spent approximately $6.5 million for legal fees on abuse claims that weren’t otherwise paid directly by insurers or reimbursed by insurers.
More than 97 percent of abuse occurred before 1990, and more than 95 percent of the settlements were paid after the year 2000.
The report partly focused on how the diocese paid the $52.5 million, with the majority of it coming from the sale of church property. Of the $52.5 million paid, $27.7 million was from sale of properties, $19.5 million was from insurance recoveries; $4.2 million was from other revenues, and $1.1 million was from contributors.
Most of the settlements were the result of negotiated resolutions between the diocese and victims or their survivors or their legal counsel. Other settlements were resolved using either judges or mediators. One claim was tried.
“The much-needed financial accounting that is the focus of this report only hints at the profound toll of human and spiritual suffering caused by the sexual abuse of children,” Caggiano said in a letter announcing the release of the report. “My hope is that as we communicate these findings, we will further the process of healing and reconciliation, address the legitimate desire for change, and restore your confidence in every level of leadership so that we can fully realize the divine mission of the Church.”
Caggiano didn’t address the issue of continuing to pay pedophile priests in his letter but the report does indicate those payments will stop in 2019.
The report said six of the priests were told the payments would stop on Jan. 1, 2019. Another will stop on June 30, 2019. The support of an eighth priest will be determined by a “canonical penal process” currently in the hands of the Vatican. Support to the latter priests will not exceed $26,500, the report said.
Most of the abuse is alleged to have occurred during the years the Bridgeport diocese was led by Egan — from 1988 to 2000 — and his predecessor, Bishop Walter Curtis, 1961 to 1988. Egan, who later became a cardinal, was the bishop when many of the allegations surfaced and lawsuits were filed.
During one deposition, Egan, who died in 2015, seemed to downplay the level of priest abuse in the church and questioned the credibility of some of the accusers.
"Claims are one thing. One does not take every claim against every human being as a proved misdeed. I'm interested in proved misdeeds. ... Claims are not of interest to me. Realities are," Egan testified.
It was during that deposition that Egan said incidents of sexual abuse by clergy happen in “small numbers.”
“It's marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused ... so it is not commonplace by any means at all. It's a unique and unexpected occurrence," he said.