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Mediation Focus of Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal

Dec 2, 2002 | Milford Daily News The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday its hopes for settling some 450 clergy abuse cases remain in the hands of a mediator.

"Currently, we're in mediation and we are going to continue in mediation," church spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said. "We don't want to say anything that would hamper that process."

The mediator, Boston attorney Paul R. Sugarman, met last week at the Bostonian Hotel, in a conference room rented by the church, with dozens of lawyers for sexual abuse plaintiffs. After the session, the Rogers Law Firm, the principal counsel for the archdiocese, sent letters to the lawyers asking for data on their clients' claims.

Lawyers Stanley J. Spero and Alan L. Cantor were picked to coordinate some 50 claims scattered among numerous counsel. Lawyers with more than 10 clients also asked to complete forms are: Roderick MacLeish Jr. and Jeffrey A. Newman of Greenberg Traurig, and Mitchell Garabedian, Carmen L. Durso, Nance Lyons, Timoth P. O'Connell, Sidney Gorovitz and Laurence E. Hardoon.

Durso said yesterday he was busy gathering the information, which is due by Dec. 16, and was told by church counsel that the archdiocese would respond to all claims by Jan. 6.

"We are proceeding on a basis that the church is proceeding toward this mediation on a good-faith basis," he said.

Garabedian said he was "not all that optimistic mediation would be successful."

Although a Herald survey over the summer identified more than $1.4 billion in property assets owned by the archdiocese, the church has insisted that under canon law it cannot liquidate most of its assets to pay for claims.

Church lawyers also say they lack liability insurance for some 175 claims predating the late 1970s.

The information sought by the church includes: basic data about the plaintiffs such as age, address and marital status; the name of the accused priest and date or dates of alleged improper acts; educational, employment and income histories of the plaintiffs; the nature and extent of any damage claims such as lost wages and medical bills; and whether "your memory of the abuse was a repressed memory, and, if so, when you recalled the alleged abuse."

Morrissey's remarks about the mediation came partly in response to a published report yesterday suggesting the church was nearing a bankruptcy filing because of the financial stress wrought by the molestation scandal and cover-up.

For the second time in four months, Morrissey acknowledged the church has hired a consultant to advise it on bankruptcy options. And for the second time in four months, she called reports that the church was closer to Chapter 11 "speculative and premature."

"We are considering all our options," she said. "The cardinal archbishop has made no decision in regard to the bankruptcy issue."

Any bankruptcy decision would have to be approved by the Archdiocesan Finance Council, which has yet to meet formally to discuss that option, church officials said.

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