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Plaintiffs Blast Boston Archdiocese Offer

Plaintiffs in Boston Sex Abuse Scandal Say Average Payout From $55 Million Offer Is Inadequate

Aug 11, 2003 | AP

Plaintiffs in the Boston Archdiocese sex abuse scandal blasted the church's $55 million settlement offer, saying an average of $60,000 per victim is "woefully inadequate" compensation for their shattered lives.

"It makes my life very cheap," said Phil Cogswell, 47, of Concord, a plaintiff who says he was abused by former priest John Geoghan. "It makes me feel very worthless."

At a Sunday press conference outside the archdiocese's chancery grounds, members of several victims' groups said the settlement must not fall short because it will be a model for other large-scale abuse cases around the nation.

"As we all struggle to figure out what moral leadership here is, we realize that $60,000 per victim as an average after legal fees is probably woefully inadequate just to pay for their direct out-of-pocket costs in their lifetimes for dealing with the tragedy," said Paul Baier, president of Survivors First.

If the settlement extended to 542 abuse victims is approved, it would be by far the largest deal to settle allegations of clergy abuse since the scandal broke in early 2002. In June, the archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., agreed to pay $25.7 million to 243 people who said they were abused.

Plaintiffs have 30 days to accept the offer and it must be approved by 95 percent of the claimants. Following the proposal Friday, plaintiffs' lawyers and many victims called the offer a constructive first step.

Phone calls to the Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, were not answered Sunday.

Kathy Dwyer, of Survivors for Those Abused by Priests, praised Archbishop Sean O'Malley for the speedy settlement offer just nine days after taking over the archdiocese. Still, Dwyer added, it doesn't get to the root of the problem.

"Fuels that ignited the fire must be named, be dealt with and removed," Dwyer said.

The archdiocese also should pay more if it can afford to, victims' groups said. Baier said the victims face costs including insurance co-payments, medication and transportation to and from support meetings that the settlement will not adequately cover.

Without knowledge of the archdiocese's financial condition, it is unfair for the church to be asking victims to make a decision on the settlement in 30 days, said Joe Gallagher, member of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors.

Pointing to a 2002 Boston Herald article that estimated $160 million in unused property owned by the archdiocese, victims' groups said there is evidence the church has financial resources they don't want to access.

They also called on wealthy, influential Catholics in the archdiocese to help raise funds for victims.

"I'd like to see the archdiocese reach into their pockets, make it hurt a little bit," Gallagher said.

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