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Jesuits Agree To Abuse Settlement

Sep 6, 2002 | AP

The Jesuits have agreed to pay a $7.6 million settlement to two mentally retarded men who claim they were sexually abused for as long as 30 years at a Northern California retreat.

The settlement, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, is one of the largest out-of-court agreements of its kind reached by the Roman Catholic Church. Larger settlements were reached in Boston, Dallas and Santa Fe, but were distributed among more victims.

"We thought the settlements were in the best interests of all parties," said Father Thomas H. Smolich, head of the California Province of the Society of Jesus. "We've been working on this settlement for well over a year."

The Jesuits would have faced an Oct. 15 civil trial if they had not reached the settlement.

The victims, identified in court documents as "John Doe" and "James Doe," filed suit last June in Santa Clara County Superior Court, seeking more than $10 million in damages. They claimed that four Jesuits subjected them to repeated acts of sodomy, molestation and false imprisonment at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, where they were working as dishwashers.

One of the defendants, Father Edward Thomas Burke, 81, was sentenced in June to two years in state prison after pleading guilty to committing a lewd act on a dependent adult. Burke was the fifth Jesuit from Sacred Heart ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

About 300 priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston early this year.

In other developments Thursday:

In Stockton, Calif., a man who accused Cardinal Roger Mahony of molesting him two decades ago has been charged with extortion, filing a false police report and other crimes, authorities said.

Loren Mitchell Saffels, 34, told Stockton police in June that he had been molested in 1982 by Mahony, who was bishop of Stockton at the time. In an arrest warrant, authorities described Saffels as a con artist with a criminal history of fraud, theft and impersonating a police officer.

The Diocese of Peoria, Ill., and a former priest have accused each other of lying in statements to the media regarding a defamation lawsuit the priest filed after he was accused of sexually abusing girls.

In Lawrence, Kan., a Roman Catholic priest who served in several Kansas parishes pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teen-age boy in 1998 and 1999. The Rev. Dennis Schmitz, 41, is to be sentenced Oct. 18 and will be removed from the priesthood.

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