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N.H. Diocese Settles 16 Abuse Cases

Oct 10, 2002 | AP

The Manchester Diocese agreed Thursday to pay $950,000 to settle lawsuits brought by 16 men who said they were molested by priests as far back as 1957.

The men accused eight former priests altogether. The diocese said four have died, two are alive but no longer act as priests, and two left the ministry in the 1960s. The most recent accusation dated to 1982.

The plaintiffs' names and the specific amounts each will receive were not disclosed, but no one will get more than $150,000.

Bishop John B. McCormack also offered to meet with each of the 16 and has written to each, the diocese said.

``I would like to offer you personally my sincere apology and express my willingness to assist you in any way I can to help you move forward in your life,'' McCormack said in the letters.

The diocese, which covers New Hampshire, is being sued by more than 100 alleged victims altogether. The attorney general's office is also investigating how the diocese handled complaints against priests. The results are expected in December.

The bishop has come under heavy criticism this year for his handling of sex abuse claims in his former post as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, where the sex scandal that has engulfed the nation's Roman Catholic Church erupted earlier this year.

The Manchester Diocese has said no active priest in New Hampshire is the subject of credible molestation charges or allegations.

Among those named in the case was the Rev. Leo Shea, a retired priest who pleaded guilty in 1994 to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old altar boy. He has not responded to efforts to reach him at home or through the diocese.

The lawsuits said Shea molested a plaintiff at another priest's funeral around 1970 and used to chase altar boys around the church, corner them and attack them.


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