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South Bend Diocese Announces Payouts To Priest Abuse Victims

Dec 12, 2003 | AP

Sixteen priests sexually abused 33 children in the Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend in the last 53 years, Bishop John D'Arcy announced Thursday, making the most public accounting yet of the clergy scandal in an Indiana diocese.

All but two of the victims were physically abused, including 15 during the 1980s, but none since 1987, D'Arcy said at a news conference in South Bend. Two other children were the targets of "flirtatious" but nonphysical activity by a single priest in the 1990s.

The sexual abuse has cost the diocese and its insurers $1.36 million, of which $633,963, or nearly half, has gone to victims, D'Arcy said.

All of the living priests involved have been removed from ministry by resignation, suspension or other means, he said.

D'Arcy said bishops' response to the scandal has been couched in too much secrecy.

"It's just as well people know," D'Arcy said. "I think people don't want to know a lot about it, but they want to know the bishop is handling it right. I think that means a lot to them."

Besides the 16 priests accused of abusing boys and girls, a 17th priest accused of a "serious act of sexual abuse" against an adult also has been removed. No priest credibly accused of sexual abuse remains in ministry in the diocese, the bishop said.

D'Arcy's statement did not identify any of the priests. At least three are dead.

The accounting by D'Arcy is likely to increase pressure on Indiana's four other Catholic bishops to reveal the human and financial costs of sexual abuse in their dioceses. The Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful, among other critics, has called for a full accounting in Indiana and other states.

Lois Myers of South Bend, a member of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said cases that she and her sister brought against a priest were investigated. Her sister's case was found credible, but not her own, Myers said.

"It's cold and callous," Myers said of the investigation process. "There is no sense of compassion there."

The tumult surrounding the scandal led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as archbishop of Boston earlier this year. D'Arcy served as a top aide to Law before becoming bishop of Ft. Wayne-South Bend in 1985 but has not faced accusations of responsibility for the Boston problems as other former aides to Law have.

The 17 priests and 33 child victims, apparently mostly boys, represent accusations of sexual abuse that the Ft. Wayne-South Bend diocese determined to be credible after investigations, D'Arcy said. Some of the priests denied the allegations, he said.

The accused priests represent about 2 percent of the 805 priests who have served the diocese since 1950.

"The percentage is small, but unacceptable. One is too many. Of the 16 priests credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor, 12 did so against boys and four against girls," D'Arcy said.

Of those 16, seven were ordained between 1970 and 1985, the year D'Arcy took over the diocese that today includes 160,000 Catholics in 14 counties.

D'Arcy said he has met with and apologized to seven victims and that his top aide, Rev. Robert C. Schulte, has had about 50 meetings or telephone conversations with victims.

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