Diocese Settls with 18 Plaintiffs

Associated Press State & Local Wire [Bend Ore]
May 18, 2004

The Bend-based Baker Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church has settled with 18 plaintiffs who claimed the late Rev. David Hazen molested them between the late 1950s and early 1970s, the church said.

The plaintiffs sought $69 million in a case that was to go to trial later this month. Terms of the settlement were not revealed, although there was no confidentiality agreement.

The settlement resulted from a two-day conference May 6-7 mediated by retired Clackamas County judge Sid Brockley.

"It was intense," said Greg Lynch, an attorney for the diocese. "It was a good settlement, and resolved all 18 claims."

Plaintiffs lawyer David Slader of Portland told the online Bend Bugle "We are grateful that we were able to reach a settlement with the Baker Diocese that avoids the necessity of protracted litigation. The victims of Father Hazen's abuse are now able to concentrate their energy on healing."

"I want to be completely respectful of their wishes, and I must presume that they have their reasons for keeping the matter private. I certainly respect that decision," said Archbishop Robert Vasa of the undisclosed settlement.

The settlement also resolves claims that Vasa had moved diocese assets to the individual church parishes to shelter them from a lawsuit.

After Vasa completed the asset transfers, a separate lawsuit, naming each of more than 60 churches in Central and Eastern Oregon, was filed late last year in Klamath County. It was later moved to Deschutes County on a change of venue.

Vasa announced what he termed a "reasonable" mediated settlement in his regular Catholic Sentinel column, which also was posted on the diocese Website.

Vasa wrote that healing is a part of the church mission "but it seems that the roadblock of financial compensation needs to be removed first."

Last October, in a separate case in Portland, 22 men who said they were abused by a priest when they were boys reached a settlement in their estimated $44 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland.

Those details also were not disclosed, but the church issued a public apology.

In a letter to parishioners last February, Archbishop John Vlazny said the archdiocese and its insurers had paid $53 million to settle priest sex-abuse claims since 1950.

In the Baker settlement, Vasa said, "There was nothing negotiated that there would be any (apology) statement of that nature. I did indicate to the victims that I would be perfectly willing to meet with any of them, individually or as a group, and to call me or write me."

"We have to wait, obviously, to make sure there are not additional lawsuits that come forward," he said.

Lynch said Hazen admitted to one case of abuse and was sent to a psychiatric hospital where he was treated for more than a year.

Hazen then was named assistant pastor of St. Pious X parish in Klamath Falls, where most of the claims arose.

But Lynch said none of the plaintiffs reported abuse at the time "except one, and his mother didn't believe him. There's no record in the diocese of inappropriate treatment."

But a Portland man who abused as a boy by a priest in New Jersey called the settlement a victory for the victims.

"They (the diocese) went from all-out hardball tactics, to having reached a settlement,' said Bill Crane, Oregon coordinator for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by priests.

"We hope, because this case was victorious, that it encourages other victims of the diocese to come forward," Crane said. "There's probably double to triple the victims out there."


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