Archdiocese reports on clergy abuse legal fees

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- The Archdiocese of St. Louis said it spent $866,800 in legal fees in the 2006 fiscal year on clergy sexual abuse cases, the most for any year in the last decade.

The next two highest amounts were for 2005 and 2004 -- $811,700 and $594,200 respectively.

The archdiocese also said it made $260,300 in mediated payments to victims in 2006, down from $1.8 million the previous year and the fourth-highest annual amount during the past 10 years. It paid $2.5 million in fiscal year 2004 -- the most ever in the last decade.

The archdiocese has never had to pay a jury award, archdiocesan attorney Bernard Huger said. One jury award in 1999 was successfully appealed.

"We try to resolve these in mediation," Huger said. "That's our high goal."

The archdiocese spent nothing in clergy counseling in 2006, the only year there was no such expense, because no new cases of alleged misconduct emerged, Huger said. Over the last decade, the archdiocese has spent $991,200 in clergy counseling.

A 10-year summary of the financial costs of clergy misconduct was part of the archdiocese's annual financial re¿port for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The report, along with a letter from Archbishop Raymond Burke, are published in a pullout section in the current issue of the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

The $866,800 in legal fees covered the cost of mediating cases and defending others where the alleged victim didn't want to settle, Huger said. The archdiocese has 25 pending cases.

Archdiocesan spokesman Tony Huenneke said the payments to individual victims were reached through mediation for "the purpose of attaining healing" through counseling.

In his letter, Burke said that for the last four years, the archdiocese's costs associated with clergy abuse cases have been paid exclusively from real estate sales or investment earnings. Huenneke said that did not include the sale of parishes that were merged with others in the last year and a half.

Prior to that, the costs were funded by general revenue.

"None of the funding for these payments came from contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal or to parishes," Burke wrote.

The Annual Catholic Appeal is the archdiocese's chief fundraiser to support education and ministries.

The archdiocese reported $205.7 million in income and $202.2 million in expenses for the 2006 fiscal year.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is the largest of four Roman Catholic dioceses in the state, with more than half a million Catholics.


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