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Judge Approves Dlrs 10 Million Settlement In Allegations Of Abuse Involving Former Boston Priest

Sep 19, 2002 | AP

A dlrs 10 million settlement between the Boston Archdiocese and 86 alleged victims of child-molesting priest John Geoghan won final approval Thursday, four months after the church backed out of a much costlier agreement.

A dlrs 10 million check from the archdiocese was given to the plaintiffs' attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

The last obstacle to the settlement was removed when Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney approved a request from a 17-year-old boy to participate in the settlement.

Sweeney addressed the alleged victims who appeared in court, saying she wanted to acknowledge their pain and make clear that the settlement means the court recognizes that Geoghan did what they say he did.

"I hope you are able to recognize in yourselves not just the hurt that was done to you but your own resilience, your courage," she said.

Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the dlrs 10 million was paid entirely by the archdiocese's insurance.

An earlier settlement worth up to dlrs 30 million had been announced in March, but the archdiocese backed out of that deal in May, saying it could not afford the deal because of hundreds of other lawsuits being filed.

Garabedian said the plaintiffs agreed to the lower figure because they want to try to put the abuse behind them.

"They want closure, and they understand that the church does not really care about their emotional well-being," Garabedian said. "It's time to move on and try to heal as best they can, if at all."

The archdiocese issued a statement saying Cardinal Bernard Law is grateful a settlement could be reached.

"His Eminence continues to pray for survivors of sexual abuse and he hopes that for those who have suffered the affects of such sinful and evil acts, that today's settlement will be a significant moment in their healing process," the statement said.

Several alleged victims said they were not comforted by Law's words or the settlement itself.

Mark Keane said the settlement will not even pay for the therapy victims will need for the rest of their lives.

"I feel I need to apologize to all future victims of church sexual abuse for setting such a low settlement amount," he said. He said the victims agreed to the lower settlement because they are "tired and emotionally spent."

The bulk of the settlement — dlrs 9.3 million — will be divided among 50 people who say they were molested by Geoghan. Twenty people who say Geoghan exposed himself to them will split dlrs 540,000, and 16 parents of children who say they were abused by Geoghan will divide dlrs 160,000.

The dlrs 10 million deal is substantially smaller than settlements in some other major clergy sexual abuse cases in the United States. Last week, the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, agreed to pay dlrs 13.5 million to settle lawsuits filed by 36 people who said they were sexually abused by 10 priests and one nun over many years.

Geoghan was convicted in January of groping a 10-year-old boy in a swimming pool in the early 1990s. The now-defrocked priest was sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison.

The sex scandal engulfing the nation's Roman Catholic Church erupted when it was learned that church officials had shuffled Geoghan from parish to parish despite knowing of abuse allegations against him.

Also this week, a lawsuit accuses the Boston archdiocese of conspiring to cover up 50 years of alleged sexual abuse by a dozen priests.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of 27 plaintiffs, says church officials didn't respond to complaints of sexual abuse, then protected the alleged perpetrators by trying to hide evidence of the abuse.

Similar lawsuits alleging conspiracy by church officials have been filed in other states.

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