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More Lawsuits For Boston Archdiocese

Sep 20, 2002 | AP

The Boston Archdiocese gave a $10 million check to 86 alleged victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan, but it won't spell the end of the archdiocese's woes.

Church officials still face hundreds of other lawsuits, including a suit filed Wednesday accusing the archdiocese of conspiring to cover up 50 years of abuse by a dozen priests.

The lawsuit, filed 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.

The settlement in the Geoghan case won final approval Thursday, four months after the church backed out of a much costlier agreement.

Superior Court Judge Constance 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 $10 million was paid entirely by the archdiocese's insurance.

An earlier settlement worth up to $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 other lawsuits being filed.

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 effects 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."

Nancy Greenlaw, the mother of John Brian Greenlaw, confronted archdiocese attorney Wilson Rogers Jr. with a picture of her son as Rogers left the courtroom. Her son died at 33 of a drug overdose that she blames on sexual abuse by Geoghan. She said the abuse began when her son was 7.

"This is my son," she told Rogers. "He passed away last year. I want everybody to remember his face. I want everyone to know the church and its actions killed my Brian."

Rogers responded, "I'm sorry. I'm terribly sorry."

The bulk of the settlement, $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 $540,000, and 16 parents of children who say they were abused by Geoghan will divide $160,000.

The $10 million deal is substantially smaller than settlements in some other major clergy sexual abuse cases in Dallas, Tucson, Ariz., and other cities. Last week, the Diocese of Providence, R.I., agreed to pay $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 and 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.


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