Settlements between Dioceses and Victims of Sexual Abuse

To help our readers assess the Orange diocese settlement, we provide information on the important Boston settlement (see the text of the "Memorandum of Understanding" and the "Settlement Agreement & Arbitration Agreement") and other large settlements. In addition, we have posted a table that calculates the per-victim compensation offered by the major settlements. A comparative study of settlements is essential for evaluating the compensation and non-compensation provisions of any new settlement. The articles on each comparable settlement may be accessed by clicking the settlement name in the table. The table does not include the important settlement at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville MN, because the dollar amount of that agreement was not made public. But because the settlement in Collegeville is considered a model by some, we also provide articles on the St. John's Abbey settlement and on the two main negotiators.

Here are a few suggestions for exploring the voluminous evidence:

HARDLINE SETTLEMENTS – As can be seen from our table, O'Malley's 1992 Fall River settlement offered victims the worst compensation of any large settlement, and his final Boston settlement is in line with more recent tough settlements: Manchester, Louisville, and Geoghan. Another measure of the hardline nature of the Boston settlement is that it provides only 42% of the compensation per victim that was negotiated in the 2002 Providence settlement. And the Boston settlement offers only 12% of the compensation per victim that was negotiated in the 2002 Tucson settlement, which included parents among the victims (cf. the relatives who have been reimbursed for "loss of consortium" in the Boston settlement). If O'Malley had chosen to sell $100 million in church property, he could have funded a total settlement in the modest Providence range. Such a sale of property would have been feasible, given the Boston archdiocese's considerable real estate holdings. Bishop Tod Brown's settlement in Orange was achieved mostly with insurance money. In that settlement, the promise to release documents is the crucial element.

FINDING MONEY TO PAY FOR DECENT SETTLEMENTS – The very interesting articles on the real estate holdings of the Providence diocese and the Boston archdiocese are essential reading. Apparently O’Malley had ample resources to draw on in financing a better settlement, yet he claimed that a larger settlement would bankrupt the diocese. O'Malley should release to the public his "financial analysis," so that victims and others can judge whether the archdiocese is indeed "maxed out," as O'Malley claimed during negotiations. (See “Land RichBoston Herald 8/27/02; in the collection of articles on the Providence settlement, see Levitz, “Roman Catholic Bishop,” Providence Journal-Bulletin 8/18/02, and Levitz, “Diocese Details,” Providence Journal-Bulletin 5/29/03. See Hamilton, "Case for Abolishing," FindLaw 7/17/03, to compare settling (as in the low Geoghan settlement) and going to trial (as in the Kos case).)

FAIR DiMARIA SETTLEMENT WITH POLICY PROVISIONS – The table allows readers to compare other settlements with survivor Ryan DiMaria’s full and fair settlement. DiMaria's net compensation for the abuse he suffered totaled $3.12 million. Most victims who suffered comparable abuse will net $300 thousand each in the Boston settlement, and the top compensation in the Orange settlement doesn't come close to the DiMaria award. What's more, the DiMaria agreement set a precedent for obtaining policy change as a condition of settlement. The Boston settlement was a potentially influential opportunity for mandating certain policies as conditions of the agreement, e.g., provision of therapy independent of the archdiocese and a truly independent review board to monitor diocesan performance. Instead, the settlement includes a questionable provision for "spiritual counseling," which aligns with the church's "pastoral" strategy in the crisis, not with the systematic changes that are necessary. In Boston, some survivors and advocates are urging that a holding facility for abusive priests be created as a condition of the settlement. The need for this is well illustrated by the post-settlement experience of DiMaria's abuser, Michael Harris. The articles about the DiMaria settlement are essential reading, especially the work of Ron Russell (see also our collection of articles on the Stockton settlement). (In the collection of DiMaria articles, see Russell, “Cardinal Coverup,” New Times 5/2/02; Lobdell, “Diocese's Policies,” LA Times 4/28/02; and for Harris's life after the settlement, Lobdell and Pasco, "Judging the Sins of the Father," LA Times 11/10/01. In the collection of articles on the Stockton settlement, see Russell, “Mouth Wide Shut,” New Times 4/18/02.)

ST. JOHN’S ABBEY AND POLICY PROVISIONS FOR O’MALLEY – In addition to the DiMaria precedent, bishops should look to the settlement at St. John's Abbey, in which the review board and therapy arrangements are independent of the church. (See Gallagher, “Will O'Malley Get It Right?,” Boston Globe 8/27/03; and see our collections of articles on the St. John's settlement and on the key people involved.)

CONFIDENTIALITY PROVISIONS VS. FULL RELEASE OF FILES – One of the lawyers involved in the Boston settlement negotiations, Jeffrey A. Newman, has repudiated the use of confidentiality agreements. Mary Ryan, a victim who refused to join the Providence settlement, wants the full story to come out there. She and others are concerned that the settlement in Providence sets a precedent, there and elsewhere, for keeping abuse secret. The Boston "Memorandum of Understanding" has been made public; the diocesan financial analysis that prompted the lawyers to accept O'Malley's offer should be made public as well. Court-ordered production of documents has been stayed. It is crucial that the Boston settlement be transparent, both in the release of mediation and settlement documents and in the subsequent release of additional archdiocesan files. The Boston settlement must not effectively seal the remaining files, as the Providence settlement did. It remains to be seen whether the settlement in Orange will yield the kind of document release that Bishop Tod Brown has promised. (In the collection of articles on the first Boston offer, see Liptak, “Case That Grew in Shadows,” NY Times 3/24/02, for Newman’s views; in the collection of articles on the Providence settlement, see Mello, “Woman Threatens to Open Records,” Providence Journal-Bulletin 12/14/02. For the Providence settlement as a dangerous model for keeping abuse secret, see Mello, "Year-Old Settlement in Abuse Cases Helps Diocese Avoid Scrutiny," Associated Press, 9/8/03. For a victim who did not join the Louisville settlement, see Hall, "Lawyer Stayed Away," Courier-Journal 6/11/03. For secrecy and the mediation process, see the Agreement to Mediate from the Providence settlement, submitted as an exhibit in a subsequent court filing (R.I. Supreme Court M 03 244, Exhibit E 22) and hence a part of the public record. And see Hamilton, "Case for Abolishing," FindLaw 7/17/03, to compare settling (as in the low Geoghan settlement) and going to trial (as in the Kos case).

DANGEROUS PRECEDENT: THE GEOGHAN SETTLEMENT – The table shows the very low Geoghan settlement, and the assessments of the Geoghan settlement by the victims and lawyers show that it was not a good model. Note that even the amounts that the Boston attorneys were reported to favor during their negotiations with O'Malley came in below the compensation provisions of the Providence settlement, which was not an exemplary settlement either, in part because it sealed most of the relevant files. (In the collection of Geoghan articles, see Farragher, “Settlement Doesn't Heal,” Boston Globe 9/20/02 and Mashberg, “Geoghan Victims,” Boston Herald 9/20/02; in the collection of articles on O’Malley’s second offer, see Gallagher, “Will O'Malley Get It Right?Boston Globe 8/27/03. See Hamilton, "Case for Abolishing," FindLaw 7/17/03, to compare settlement (as in the low Geoghan agreement) and going to trial (as in the Kos case.).

For further reading:

• On the Tucson settlement and its background, see Baker, “Catholic Church Hid Sexual Abuse,” Arizona Republic 2/10/02, in the collection of articles on the Tucson settlement.

• On the little-known Oklahoma City settlement and its background, see Romano, “Oklahoma Archbishop,” Washington Post 5/21/02, in the collection on the Oklahoma City settlement.

• On O'Malley's Fall River settlement and his subsequent policy, see Kurkjian, “68 Victims Settle,” Boston Globe 12/4/92; Urbon, “Fall River Diocese Has Model Program,” Standard-Times 2/3/02; Durand, “Porter Victims Question Selection,” Herald News 7/1/03; and the Fall River diocesan “Procedures,” all in the collection of documents on the Fall River settlement.

• For a watershed article on the LA archdiocese, putting the Hagenbach settlement in context, see Bunting, Frammolino, and Winton, “Archdiocese for Years Kept Claims of Abuse from PoliceLA Times 8/18/02, in the collection of articles about the Hagenbach settlement in LA.

• For an interesting article on the Louisville situation before the settlement, see Wolfson, “Diocese Ponders Strategy,” Courier Journal 7/7/02, in the collection of articles on the Louisville settlement.

The staff at hope that these materials are useful for understanding the settlement process and the issues involved. Please email us at to let us know about any documents that we should add.

Note: The documents referenced above are offered solely for educational purposes. Should any reader wish to quote or reproduce these documents for sale, the original publisher should be contacted and permission requested. Wherever possible, we offer a link to the document, and we also cache the document. makes no claim regarding the accuracy of any document we post.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.