It was an emotional, tumultuous day. There was strong reaction from parishioners and a striking debate by attorneys over whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego could have settled for tens of millions of dollars less had it not filed for bankruptcy six months ago.When taken together, between LA's $660 million deal inked in July, the diocese of Orange's $100 million settlement in 2005 and the San Diego payout, the three Southern California dioceses account for almost 40% of the total compensation awarded victim-survivors by the church in the United States -- a cumulative figure that, after yesterday, now stands at approximately $2.5 billion.
San Diego Bishop Robert Brom was remorseful during an afternoon news conference. “I apologize to the victims of abuse by ministers of the church in the Diocese of San Diego. I apologize, as well, to their families and friends who have been affected by these crimes and this abuse of power.”...
Brom said no churches or schools will have to close. But the settlement, which mirrors the one in the Los Angeles archdiocese this summer, “will result in some damaging consequences for the mission of the church in this diocese for a number of years.”
Still, the day belonged to the 144 men and women who will receive an average payout of $1.38 million for sexual abuse they suffered from priests and church workers when they were minors.
“This day will forever be remembered by people for what is most important, that you can't abuse a child and expect not to be held accountable,” said Guy Lowry, 48, of Temecula.
At a noon news conference, he and other victims and their attorneys walked hand in hand out of the downtown federal building for a tearful tribute.
Lowry and other victims thanked the attorneys who believed in them and the judges who rallied around them. The attorneys praised their clients for having the courage to come forward.
Between sobs, several victims said no religion should be allowed to hide acts of abuse and transfer offenders from church to church.
“What happened to us should never happen to any child,” said Nancy Mass, 60, of San Diego, who was among dozens of people who say they were abused by the late Rev. Franz Robier. “They knew this priest was molesting us, and they moved him around and let him molest other children.”...
Betty Aron Schneider, 62, another person who says she was abused by Robier, said she has grandchildren who are about the same age she was when she was molested. “I hope that all this will help to protect them more than we were protected,” said Schneider, who lives in Temecula.
Michael Bang's face reddened with anger as he recounted how his lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial after four years of delays only to be put on hold after the diocese filed for bankruptcy.
“I'm angry as hell that it took that long to get here,” said Bang, 46, who lives in Atlanta. He said he was sexually abused for several years by the late Monsignor William Kraft in San Diego and that the diocese didn't believe him.