Tuesday 22 October 2019

Church set to pay millions to abuse victims

Accusations relate to 500 claimants and 221 priests over 60 years

Chris Ayres

THE Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles is to pay $1.3m (€948,350) to each of about 500 alleged victims of sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s in the largest compensation deal of its kind.

The $660m (€478m) settlement, announced by the victims' lawyers, finally resolves accusations against 221 Los Angeles priests, brothers, lay teachers, and other church employees.

It came 48 hours before a case was scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court focusing on 12 people who accused Clinton Hagenbach, a former priest, of molesting them.

Although Hagenbach died 20 years ago, the trial would have forced the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, to testify about the Church's response to abuse cases dating back 60 years.

Criticism

Cardinal Mahony has already faced criticism for sending a priest to New Mexico for "treatment" after he confessed to abusing young boys, instead of calling the police.

The priest, Michael Baker, allegedly went on to molest other children while being moved between parishes. Cardinal Mahony has described it as the case "that troubles me the most", but has long fought to keep the Church's personnel files confidential.

Raymond Boucher, the lawyer representing the alleged victims, said that some of them had waited more than five decades for a chance at reconciliation and resolution. "This is a down payment on that debt long overdue," he told the 'Los Angeles Times'.

The settlement is the latest in a long and painful series of such deals resulting from abuse allegations that began to emerge in the 1990s. The total settlements paid by the US Catholic Church total more than $2bn.

Until the Los Angeles deal, the largest settlements over sex abuse in the Catholic Church have included a $157m deal in Boston and a $129m deal in Portland, Oregon.

The monetary payments are a result of the criminal statute of limitations having long expired in most abuse cases, leaving a civil lawsuit as the only option for many victims. Any settlement deal will have to be approved this morning by Haley Fromholz, the superior court judge .

Feelings

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that the deal was the largest group settlement with the Catholic Church, although a handful of individual plaintiffs have received greater amounts than each is to receive from this settlement.

One alleged victim, Mary Ferrell (59), described mixed feelings about the payout. "That amount of money is impressive in that it shows tremendous guilt," she said.

"But I didn't file [the lawsuit] for the money. I would give back the money if I could have my childhood back." (© The Times,London)

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