Cardinal avoids testifying in U.S. sex abuse lawsuits

Published September 4, 2007

Los Angeles
The archdiocese of Los Angeles’ agreement to a $660 million US clergy abuse settlement will amount to $1.3 million for each plaintiff, and it prevents Roger Cardinal Mahoney, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese, from having to testify on the issue.

News reports said Cardinal Mahoney would not have to disclose whether diocesan leaders had covered up the incidents of abuse as they occurred.

However, the settlement, which includes more than 500 plaintiffs, and effectively avoids 15 upcoming pedophilia trials against the Los Angeles archdiocese, also calls for the release of confidential personnel files of priests involved in alleged abuses from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Archdiocesan attorney Michael Hennigan told the Washington Post he was glad an agreement had finally been reached.

“I think for those of us who have been involved in this for more than five years, it’s a huge relief,” he said. “But it’s a disappointment that we didn’t get it done much earlier than this.”

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the BBC News that “this represents a tremendous achievement by these brave survivors, who somehow found the strength to come forward, report the crimes, get legal help, expose the predators and ultimately endure a pretty long, gruelling legal process.”

The settlement brings the total paid out by U.S. dioceses to $2 billion since 1950. Los Angeles, the most populous Catholic diocese in the United States, with more than three million parishioners, will have paid out about one quarter of that and now faces financial ruin.

According to church documents, the diocese will pay $250 million in cash, while the rest will be covered by insurance and by several different religious orders.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders already have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 earlier claims.

Several months ago, Cardinal Mahoney announced that the church would sell its 12-storey administrative building, and consider selling 50 other non-essential properties to raise funds.

More than 500 other lawsuits against the archdiocese remain unresolved. Since 2002 nearly 1,000 people have filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic church in California alone.


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