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Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Watching Proposed Boston Settlement Closely

Sep 4, 2002 | AP

A proposed dlrs 10 million settlement for alleged sex abuse victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan is being closely watched as a possible model for resolution of hundreds of similar claims.

Attorneys for the Boston Archdiocese and the 86 Geoghan plaintiffs said Wednesday they were close to a deal. The agreement would cost the church far less than the dlrs 30 million settlement the archdiocese pulled out of four months ago. The church's finance council balked at the earlier deal.

Laurence Hardoon, a Boston attorney representing about a dozen alleged victims, said he has delayed filing some lawsuits to see what the archdiocese does in the Geoghan cases.

"I think the church would be hard-pressed to determine amounts for these (Geoghan) cases and then to completely reinvent the wheel and determine completely different amounts for other similar cases," Hardoon said Wednesday.

Carmen Durso represents about 60 alleged victims. "The church has to be as evenhanded as possible in dealing with victims," he said. "In the settlement, it can't take a position that will end up making people feel like they've been abused again or mistreated again."

The finance council vetoed the earlier proposal because it feared many more lawsuits will be filed against priests. Paying the alleged Geoghan victims up to dlrs 30 million would have left little money for any additional settlements, church officials have said.

The latest offer has been approved by the council, according to J. Owen Todd, Cardinal Bernard Law's attorney.

The Geoghan victims are still asking Judge Constance Sweeney to enforce the earlier agreement, which called for the archdiocese to pay victims from dlrs 10,000 to dlrs 938,000 each.

The judge has not yet ruled on that request, and it was unclear whether she would wait to see if the plaintiffs' attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, and lawyers for the archdiocese can seal the dlrs 10 million deal.

Payments to alleged victims would be reduced under the new offer, Garabedian acknowledged. They would get about dlrs 25,000 to dlrs 320,000, with some of their relatives receiving dlrs 10,000.

"It's not all about money, contrary to what some people say," Garabedian said. "My clients just want closure."

Garabedian said a possible obstacle to closing the deal is that some of his clients want to be allowed to describe in court the abuse they allegedly suffered.

Geoghan was convicted in January of groping a boy and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The sexual abuse scandal engulfing the nation's Roman Catholic Church was sparked in January with revelations that church officials shuffled Geoghan from parish to parish despite knowing of abuse allegations against him. Since then, at least 300 priests have been dismissed

Meanwhile in Illinois, a former priest sued the Peoria Diocese, claiming he was defamed when he was asked to step down over sexual misconduct charges allegedly involving two teenage girls nearly four decades ago.

Edward Bush, 71, who denies the allegations, is seeking more than dlrs 50,000 in damages in the lawsuit, which names Bishop Daniel Jenky and Vicar General Steven Rohlfs. In a statement, the diocese said it had not seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment.

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