$12M in settlements reached in clergy abuse

August 13, 2008 4:42:10 AM PDT
Chicago's Catholic archdiocese agreed Tuesday to pay more than $12.7 million to settle lawsuits by 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1962. "My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward," Cardinal Francis George said in a statement in which he also offered an apology for the abuse.

Cardinal George announced details of the massive settlement at a press conference Tuesday morning at the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Fourteen of the cases involve sexual abuse by 10 different priests, and two relate to the Rev. Daniel J. McCormack, who pleaded guilty last year to having abused as many as five children at a West Side parish. In all, 11 priests and one Catholic school principal are named in the collection of suits.

The archdiocese has now settled four of the five lawsuits stemming from abuse by Father McCormack.

McCormack is charged with molesting boys at Chicago's St. Agatha Parish during 2001 and 2005.

Cardinal George issued yet another apology for the victims of priest sexual abuse dating back decades.

"I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community," George said in his statement.

"We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care," he said.

The settlements were reached through a mediation process in which the cardinal himself gave a lengthy deposition.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented some of the victims, praised the mediation process that arrived at the settlements and said in a statement that the cardinal was "actively involved in this process."

"He has demonstrated his commitment to healing these survivors," Anderson said.

Cardinal George said Tuesday he hopes the settlement will help comfort the victims.

"I think the Church is certainly wounded by this, how greatly, I don't know, nor do I know if anybody else knows exactly, but you talk anecdotally to people. For others, especially for the seminarians, it's been a moment of clarity," said George.

"In these kind of cases, there are no winners. But certainly these are settlements that I think all hope play a role in helping these victims and helping them move forward with their lives," said Thomas Gibbons, mediator.

The settlement will come from sales of archdiocese assets and the victims could be compensated within weeks.

"We just felt it was very important that parishioners understand that this is not money that is coming from their local parish," said Jimmy Lago, archdiocese administrator.

The Chicago Archdiocese already has paid more than $50 million to about 250 sexual abuse victims over the years. What's significant about these settlements--which actually, on an individual basis, are not that large--is the fact that they require full disclosure on the part of the archdiocese and Cardinal George.

The president of the Survivors' Network of those abused by priests released a statement. Barbara Blaine praised the victims for insisting "that secret church documents about these pedophile priests be made public. These courageous victims are the ones who deserve praise today."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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