Diocese to Reveal Cases' Cost
Sex Abuse Claims: Joliet Plans to Join Trend of Disclosing Dollars Spent

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
June 29, 2002

JOLIET — The Catholic Diocese of Joliet says it will release information about how much money it has spent because of claims of sexual misconduct by priests or other agents of the diocese.

The Joliet Diocese plans to do what numerous dioceses across the country are doing to honor a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' pledge to end the secrecy about how reports of alleged sexual abuse were handled. The diocese may disclose the information by next week.

"We intend to share the amounts of settlements and how they were funded: First with the people of the diocese, then the general public," said Sister Judith Davies, the diocese's chancellor.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the bishop's conference, was one of the first U.S. bishops to disclose information about financial settlements in his diocese. In May, his Belleville Diocese reported that it had paid $2.8 million in the last nine years in costs related to complaints of sexual misconduct by clergy.

In Belleville, people abused by clergy received $203,000 in direct payments. The diocese spent $425,761 on counseling for victims and family members, and $1.5 million in salaries and expenses for 13 priests accused of misconduct. Another $323,823 was spent to provide therapy to priests.

Belleville has 179 priests in 125 parishes serving 105,000 Catholics. The Joliet Diocese has 295 diocesan and religious order priests in 132 parishes and missions serving more than 600,000 Catholics in seven counties.

To date, Belleville is the only diocese in Illinois to disclose information about costs associated with sexual misconduct.

"Our bishop is working on getting the information together, since (the question) is in the public eye. The public is demanding it," said John Maxwell, finance director for the Diocese of Springfield.

Other dioceses say that if people want to know how much has been spent related to misconduct claims, they'll have to scour annual financial reports on their own.

"Once a year, we distribute our published audit. That's the only financial information we're disclosing," said Jodi Rippon, assistant director of finance for the Rockford Diocese.

The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Peoria have not indicated if they will disclose financial information, and attempts to reach officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Some studies suggest that sexual misconduct claims will cost Catholic churches in the United States more than $1 billion. Reports have been filtering in as each diocese decides whether to disclose the information:

  • The Albany, N.Y., Catholic diocese reported Wednesday that it has paid $2.3 million to sexual abuse victims during the past 25 years, including a payment of nearly $1 million to a single victim in 1997.

  • The Archdiocese of St. Louis reported it has paid $1.6 million to victims of alleged sexual misconduct by clerics.

  • The Archdiocese of Boston, the center of the clergy misconduct scandal in America, already has paid $15 million to 40 victims of John Geoghan, a former priest accused of sexually abusing more than 100 boys. The archdiocese has paid $70 million to settle claims in the last 10 years. Recently, the diocese has attempted to settle another 86 claims for an estimated $30 million.

    Nationwide, at least 300 civil lawsuits alleging clerical sex abuse have been filed in 16 states since January, according to a recent Associated Press study. Almost 250 of the nation's more than 46,000 Roman Catholic priests either have been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal began in January. Dioceses in Kentucky face the most lawsuits at 122.


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