Catholic Church pays $77 million to sex abuse victims – Laurie Goldstein

Willmington Diocese Settlement  (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Del., agreed late Wednesday to settle for $77 million with 146 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members and to release internal church documents about how the church hierarchy handled the allegations of abuse.

The sticking point in the negotiations was not the money, but the documents, according to those involved. The victims insisted that the diocese release the documents uncensored, and make them publicly available on the Internet.

The committee and the diocese finally agreed that an arbitrator would settle disagreements over redactions before making the documents public.

The Wilmington diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 in response to the abuse lawsuits, seeking a consolidated settlement. The monetary award is less than the settlements in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Calif., Boston and Covington, Ky., but includes more assurances for the victims that the promised documents will actually be released.

Delaware and California passed laws in recent years that allowed people alleging abuse to file lawsuits after the statute of limitations had expired. The Catholic Church in several other states, including New York, has led the fight against similar “window legislation.”

In Wilmington on Thursday, both sides said they were pleased with the agreement, which included a list of non-monetary provisions.

The diocese agreed to have priests sign a statement every five years affirming that they are not aware of undisclosed abuse of minors. And the diocese will place plaques in its schools saying that abuse of children “shall not be tolerated.”

The abused speak out - except in India!Matt Conaty, an abuse victim who served as co-chair of the creditors committee that negotiated on behalf of those abused, said, “We were seeking some measure of monetary justice, but that was secondary to the concrete child protection measures and the transparency.”

Mr. Conaty, who is 41 and works in newspaper marketing, said of the two principals accused of abuse at his old Catholic high school: “Would this plaque have stopped them? I doubt it, because I think they were sick and I think they were criminals. But there were teachers who knew there were red flags, and could have done more.” New York Times, New York, Feb. 3, 2011

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