Archdiocese Settles Eight Abuse Cases in Mediation

By Joseph Kenny
St. Louis Review
February 11, 2005

The Archdiocese of St. Louis settled eight cases of clergy sexual abuse last month in a mediation process.

The settlements to be paid by the archdiocese total $267,500. The cases involved claims against five archdiocesan priests who have been removed from ministry: Romano Ferraro, Michael McGrath, Joseph Lessard, Donald Straub and Robert Yim. The Vatican recently dismissed McGrath, Straub and Yim from the priesthood.

One case involved a religious order priest, Vincentian Father Richard Lause. That claim is being paid by the Vincentians.

Since January 2004, the mediation process has resulted in the settlement of 31 cases at a total of $2,399,300. Approximately $742,000 was recovered from an insurance carrier.

There are nine other cases of clergy abuse of minors — all but one where a lawsuit had been filed — that have yet to be settled. Five of the cases are expected to be part of the mediation process.

"We have the bulk of it resolved," Bernard Huger, archdiocesan attorney, told the Review.

All those who have brought their complaints to the mediation process have been encouraged to bring their allegations to the police or prosecuting attorney if they choose to pursue criminal prosecution, according to a statement issued previously by the archdiocese.

The mediation process was announced in November 2003 as an initiative to pastorally respond to anyone who has been a victim. The goal is to provide a means for healing for those whose allegations are found to be credible.

The process involves some members of the archdiocese's Gennesaret Committee, which includes people with specialties in the mental health professions among others to help assess from the victims or their therapist what their needs might be.

"It's a very thorough process. We listen. The person comes in with his or her family members, therapists, attorneys or whoever and tells the full story in a full report," Huger said.

Members of the committee ask questions. "We try to match our offer of settlement with what their needs are," Huger said.

Having a neutral party as mediator is cited as a reason the process is valued. Both sides pick the mediator in each case.

The committee members are all volunteers.

Archbishop Raymond Burke is providing letters of apology to victims in some cases that were mediated in December. The process was delayed when the addresses that were needed were not provided from victims' attorneys until some time after Christmas, Huger said.

"We told them it would be done in February," he said.


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