Santa Rosa
Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Lawsuits
$7.3 million will go to 8 who said priests had molested them

By Jim Doyle
San Francisco Chronicle
July 1, 2005

The Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Diocese has agreed to pay $7.3 million to settle pending lawsuits alleging that eight children were sexually abused by its priests, the diocese's lawyer has announced.

Rumors and scandals involving child sexual abuse have swirled around the diocese for decades. Since 1990, the diocese has paid or agreed to pay about $19 million to settle claims involving dozens of sex abuse cases.

"This settlement provides just and reasonable compensation for the victims of past abuse, while preserving the spiritual and material ministries of the diocese throughout the Northern California region," Bishop Daniel Walsh said in a written statement.

"We have worked in good faith to respond to those who have suffered so deeply from such abuse, and are committed to take every possible measure to ensure the continued safety and well-being of each child entrusted to our care."

The nine claims were filed in 2003 after a state law temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving the sexual abuse of minors. With this $7.3 million settlement, diocese officials said this week, one sex abuse claim remains pending against the diocese.

The latest settlement involves eight alleged victims, including Greg Sloan, 48, of Sonora, a former Calistoga altar boy who said he was victimized in the mid-1960s by the late Rev. Patrick Gleeson. Four of the cases involve former priest Don Kimball, and two cases each involve Gleeson and former priest Gary Timmons.

"It's the beginning of a closure for me. It's been a long haul," Sloan said Thursday. "It's not about money. It's about my life and family and my relationship with my children, my wife and my friends. It's not just about dollars and cents."

The diocese has acknowledged paying settlements previously to five additional victims of Kimball; 10 victims of Timmons; a victim of former Monsignor Patrick O'Shea; and a victim of retired priest Austin Peter Keegan. Dozens of other victims were paid from a discretionary fund kept by former Bishop Patrick Ziemann.

Overall, 16 of its priests have been accused of molesting 59 children since 1962, the diocese acknowledged in a December 2003 newsletter to its parishioners.

The diocese had voiced concerns that sex abuse claims might result in its filing for bankruptcy protection. But only about 25 percent of the settlement costs will be paid by the diocese, according to Dan Galvin, the diocese's lawyer. He said the diocese's insurance will pay for the rest.

"It is my hope that this settlement will bring not only a measure of healing to the victims, but also an end to the uncertainty among parishioners about the financial future and stability of this diocese," said Bishop Walsh, who pledged that no capital campaign funds or restricted donations will be used to fund the settlement.

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