Archbishop Announces Additional Lawsuit Settlements

By Tim Korte
Associated Press [Albuquerque NM]
February 7, 1994

Sixteen more civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former Roman Catholic priest have been settled, bringing to 45 the number of claims that have been resolved.

The settlements were agreed to last week and made final Monday, Paul Bardacke, an attorney for the archdiocese of Santa Fe, said Monday.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan said all 16 cases involved former priest Jason Sigler and were settled with money from insurance companies and parishioners.

Sigler was accused of molesting altar boys at St. Therese Church in Albuquerque, St. Anthony Church in Fort Sumner and Immaculate Conception Church in Las Vegas, N.M., during the 1970s and early '80s.

He was treated for pedophilia at the Servants of the Paraclete facility at Jemez Springs at least three times in the late 1960s and early '70s.

Sigler, now in his mid-50s, left the priesthood in 1982. He pleaded guilty in 1983 to a charge of criminal sexual penetration of a minor in exchange for a deferred sentence in Albuquerque.

Neither Sheehan nor Bardacke would disclose the amounts or any other details of the settlements. Previous settlements also were confidential.

In December, Sheehan estimated the cost of settling all of the sexual-abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese at about $ 50 million.

At Monday's news conference, he said several more of at least 13 cases still pending should be resolved soon.

While insurers agreed to cover the costs of the latest settlements, Sheehan said litigation was still pending to determine whether insurance companies or the archdiocese ultimately will pay the bill.

Several insurance companies have sued the archdiocese in federal court, alleging negligence in overseeing the assignments of known pedophile priests.

The archdiocese countersued insurers in state district court, alleging that the companies failed to uphold their contracts with the archdiocese.

Should the courts rule in favor of the insurers, the archdiocese could be in a situation where insurance companies could "demand all the money back," Sheehan said.

If that happened, Sheehan said, the archdiocese - striving now to avoid bankruptcy proceedings - could face financial ruin.

"It would, of course, be a devastating thing," Sheehan said. "It would cause enormous harm to the church in New Mexico."

Late last year, Sheehan appealed to the 91 parishes within the archdiocese to help defray costs of litigation stemming from sexual-abuse lawsuits. Sheehan said Monday the archdiocese has received the $ 1 million that church officials had hoped for when the appeal was issued.

"The Archdiocese of Santa Fe expresses its appreciation to the parishioners and priests who have continued to support it spiritually and financially," he said.


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