Church sex abuse victims learn settlement amounts

Sunday, December 21, 2003

BOSTON -- Months of litigation against the Boston archdiocese over clergy sex abuse ended Saturday as victims learned what portion of an $85 million settlement they could expect from the church.

The announcements, released first to the victims' attorneys, capped months of mediation in the nation's largest known financial payout over clergy abuse.

Over the past two months, hundreds of men and women tearfully detailed their accounts of rapes, molestation and assaults to arbitrators charged with dividing up the settlement.

Alexa MacPherson, 28, of Boston said the award brought her little comfort because of the lingering effects of years of abuse.

"This money, it means nothing," said MacPherson, who declined to say how much she was awarded. "In a way, I wish that I didn't even have it, because I need to find the change and the peace within me, and right now, that's not happening, even though I'm getting this check."

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley said he recognized that money cannot adequately compensate victims for their suffering.

"We hope that the conclusion of this phase of the settlement will provide survivors and their loved ones with some measure of healing and peace," he said in a statement.

'Bittersweet process'

Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said he received the breakdown of the awards for his clients from church attorney Thomas Hannigan Jr. just after 10 a.m. He immediately began telling his 120 clients.

"It's a bittersweet process," he said. "Some clients are happy, some are not happy."

About 540 victims have been allocated between $80,000 and $300,000 each under the agreement reached with the Archdiocese of Boston in September. Specific numbers for each victim weren't released.

Ten people -- all alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley or their families -- have elected to press on with lawsuits. In addition, attorneys said Saturday at least seven new lawsuits have been filed in recent days.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the checks, which will be made out on Monday, will close only one chapter of the victims' crisis.

"There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of healing for the survivors and their families," he said.

The clergy abuse scandal began in early 2002, when court documents in the case of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan revealed the church knew about allegations against him, but kept him in ministry.

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