Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deal Or No Deal?

LA archdiocese "very close" to inking $60 million abuse settlement with 45 claimants:
The settlement being drafted by attorneys for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the alleged victims would give 45 claimants a total of $60 million, said Venus Soltan, a plaintiffs' attorney. The settlement would encompass alleged victims whose claims are not covered by the church's insurance policies, she said.

If distributed equally, each alleged victim would get $1.3 million, although how the money would be divided remained unclear.

"We are in the final stages of documentation and the settlement should be coming public within a week," said Soltan, who represents two of the people who would receive money under the agreement. "It's a very big deal because it's the first time Los Angeles has settled any of its cases."

An attorney for the priests and another plaintiffs' attorney confirmed those figures for The Associated Press in interviews this week and said a deal is likely within a week.

The 45 cases are a fraction of the more than 500 clergy abuse lawsuits filed against the archdiocese since 2003, when alleged victims were allowed to file lawsuits under a state law that peeled back the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims for one year.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg acknowledged Friday that both sides were working hard on a deal, but said similar negotiations with the uninsured cases fell apart last year.

"Talks are ongoing, we're trying to settle the uninsured cases, that's no secret. Last month, people were saying it was going to happen within days," Tamberg said. "I've seen so many stops and starts along the way and I wouldn't hazard a guess at all."

The potential deal would be the most significant step to date toward resolving extensive litigation against the archdiocese that has dragged on for years. It would represent the second-largest publicly known clergy abuse payout in California and the fourth-largest in the nation, according to an AP review of settlements.
In other lawsuit news, 197 of the following released have been floating around -- one for each US diocesan bishop. Plug your own bishop's name and diocese in, and you'll have it about right; source is listed, unsurprisingly, as "Jeff Anderson & Associates," the Minneapolis mega-firm which has taken the lead in a plurality of clergy abuse cases nationwide.
Bishop N., the head of the N. Catholic Diocese, has been served with and named as a defendant in an unprecedented civil child sex abuse lawsuit brought by the family of a murdered Wisconsin man. It was served on local Catholic officials this week by a county sheriff.

The lawsuit, which seeks no monetary damages, was filed in August in St. Croix County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (Court File No.06CV581). It asks a state judge to force America's 194 Catholic bishops to disclose the names of roughly 5,000 proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive priests in the US. The suit is being brought by the family of Dan O'Connell of Wisconsin, who, along with a co-worker, was shot and killed in February 2002 by a suspected pedophile priest who also owned guns and pornography.

After a two year police investigation a judicial hearing determined that the crimes were committed by Father Ryan Erickson of the Diocese of Superior (WI). O'Connell had uncovered information about the priest molesting children. After police interrogated him about the murders, Erickson committed suicide in December 2004. Further investigation revealed that Superior church officials had been aware of Erickson's erratic and questionable behavior and ordained him anyway.

The O'Connell family vowed to "make something good" come from the double murders and push for a five point reform plan to prevent future abuse. But in numerous attempts to work with the Catholic leaders the O'Connells have found little support or response, and they reluctantly filed this suit.

After considerable research and meeting with experts and victims across the country, the family believes church officials have made only minimal reforms and aren't abiding by their own policies on abuse.

They have also created a website,, to further educate the public about the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Hard to believe, but come January it'll mark five years since the first revelations from Boston appeared in the Globe. Expect a growing tide of stories and talk as the date approaches, and a churchwide conversation is due on 1. what's been learned, 2. what remains to be learned and 3. what's been learned and faultily applied... and that's just for starters.