Leader of Los Angeles archdiocese apologizes to victims of sex abuse

Monday, July 16, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, apologized Sunday to the hundreds of people who will get a share of a $660 million settlement over allegations of clergy sex abuse.

"There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. ... The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot," he said.

"Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. ... It should not have happened and should not ever happen again."

Mahony said he has met in the past 14 months with dozens of people alleging clergy abuse and that those meetings helped him understand the importance of a quick resolution to what he called a "terrible sin and crime."

The settlement will not affect the archdiocese's core ministry, Mahony said, but the church will have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds and borrow money. The archdiocese will not sell any parish property, he said.

"We gather today because this long journey has now come to an end, and a new chapter of that journey is beginning," Mahony told reporters.

The deal between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and more than 500 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse reached late Saturday is by far the largest payout since the nationwide clergy abuse scandal emerged in 2002 in Boston.

The settlement also calls for the release of priests' confidential personnel files after review by a judge. According to Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, the settlement had not required Mahony to make his public apology.

Earlier Sunday, Mahony presided over Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles without directly addressing the settlement. The service did include a prayer for victims of clergy abuse.

Mahony and all parties are expected before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today to enter the settlement into the court record, attorneys said.

"I think for those of us who have been involved in this for more than five years, it's a huge relief," said Michael Hennigan, archdiocese attorney. "But it's a disappointment, too, that we didn't get it done much earlier than this."

The deal settles all 508 cases that remained against the archdiocese, which also paid $60 million in December to settle 45 cases that weren't covered by sexual abuse insurance.

Under the latest deal, the archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years, Hennigan said. The archdiocese is released from liability in those claims, Tamberg said.

Plaintiffs' attorneys can expect to receive as much as 40 percent of the settlement money -- or $264 million -- for their work.

Standing outside the cathedral, Mary Grant, spokeswoman for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the settlement did not end suffering for the thousands of victims of clergy abuse.

"This is not over," she said. "Church officials would like to think that this settlement means everything is OK. ... But this is not a magic wand."

The settlements push the total amount paid out by the U.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion, with about a quarter of that coming from the Los Angeles archdiocese. A judge must sign off on the agreement.

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