L.A. Catholic Church sex-abuse settlement to be formalized

BY admin

July 17 2007 12:00 AM ET

After a whirlwind
weekend, the negotiations that produced a landmark $660
million settlement between the Roman Catholic archdiocese of
Los Angeles and more than 500 alleged victims of
clergy abuse are heading toward a conclusion.

Attorneys from
both sides, as well as Cardinal Roger Mahony, were
expected in court Monday to enter a formal settlement
agreement with Judge Haley Fromholtz. The deal marks
the end of more than five years of negotiations and is
by far the largest payout by any diocese since the
clergy abuse scandal emerged in Boston in 2002.

Mahony, leader of
the nation's largest archdiocese, apologized Sunday to
the hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims who will receive a
share of the settlement.

''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 with dozens of victims of clergy abuse in the past
14 months and those meetings helped him understand the
importance of a quick resolution to what he called a
''terrible sin and crime.''

The cardinal said
the settlement will not have an impact on the
archdiocese's core ministry, but said the church will have
to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds, and
borrow money. He said the archdiocese will not sell
any parish properties or parish schools.

''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 settlement
also calls for the release of priests' confidential
personnel files after review by a judge.

''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.''

Parishioners
reacted with a mix of disappointment and relief.

Vivian Viscarra,
50, who attends Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the
Angels three times a month, said the victims deserve the
payout even though it could hurt the church's ability
to deliver important services. The amount would
average a little more than $1.3 million per plaintiff,
although individual payouts will vary according to the
severity and duration of the abuse.

''I am
disappointed,'' Viscarra said. ''And it's making me
reevaluate my views of whether people in the ministry
should be married. People do have needs.''

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.

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, said Tod Tamberg, church
spokesman.

Plaintiffs'
attorneys can expect to receive up to 40% of the settlement
money—or $264 million—for their work.

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.

Previously, the
Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers, and various Roman
Catholic orders had paid more than $114 million to settle 86
claims. Several religious orders in California have
also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent
months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans, and
the Jesuits. (Gillian Flaccus, AP)

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