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Settlement Reached In Sex-Abuse Lawsuits Against Providence, R.I., Diocese

Sep 9, 2002 | AP

An agreement has been reached to settle decade-old lawsuits that accuse Roman Catholic clergy of sexual abuse, a source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday.

In all, 38 lawsuits were filed in the early 1990s against the Diocese of Providence by men and women who accuse 11 clergy of molesting them when they were children. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not say if all 38 cases are affected by the settlement.

A spokeswoman for the diocese would not confirm or deny that a settlement had been reached. A lawyer for the plaintiffs also declined to comment.

However, Bishop Robert E. Mulvee and some of the plaintiffs scheduled a joint afternoon news conference.

Terms of the deal were not immediately released.

Earlier this year, the lead attorneys on the lawsuits — Timothy J. Conlon and Carl DeLuca — asked the diocese for dlrs 15 million immediately plus dlrs 8 million over four years to settle the cases.

The diocese's finance council rejected that proposal, which came as public scrutiny over church sex abuse allegations was heightened by scandals erupting in dioceses across the nation.

Percentage-wise, Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the nation, with 624,000 Catholics out of a population of about 1 million people. Its 157 parishes have 421 priests.

The diocese has dlrs 97 million in assets, according to its December financial statement, but state law allows the bishop to hold an unlimited amount of land tax-free in his name, with virtually no reporting requirements.

Attorneys for alleged abuse victims estimate the value of one diocese corporation, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, at dlrs 44.6 million. Its assets include the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick, used for the 1998 film "Meet Joe Black" because it resembles the French residences of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor, plus several beachfront properties and land in several towns.

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