The Providence Roman Catholic diocese will pay $13.5 million to close dozens of sex-abuse claims against clergy — and victims welcomed an apology issued with the settlement.
“I feel emancipated,” said Anita Guilbeault, 43, who was abused as a teen-ager by her parish priest.
On Monday, the Most Rev. Robert E. Mulvee, the bishop of Providence, stood with lawyers for 36 male and female sex-abuse victims, and announced the diocese was settling the decade-old cases.
“This is a day long sought that brings to an end the difficult and often contentious process of litigation that has been painful for most concerned,” Mulvee said. “I hope that this action will be helpful to the victims of abuse and bring them in some way closer to closure and reconciliation with their God, their church, their families and themselves.”
“As bishop of Providence, I reach out with deep sadness to the victims,” Mulvee said as several victims sat nearby. “It is their pain that motivates this” settlement.
Victims were gratified.
“Your heartfelt condolences and reaching out to my clients means more to them than anything I could bring,” said victims’ attorney Timothy J. Conlon. “It’s more than you had to do and it’s the right thing. … I applaud your courage.”
Guilbeault said she no longer considers herself a Catholic. Molested by a priest who was so close to her family that he was called “Uncle Sonny,” Guilbeault said she hopes now she can move on.
“I don’t want to stay angry. … God didn’t leave me by the wayside, the church did,” she said.
The settlement covers all but two of the men and women who sued the diocese in the early 1990s, accusing 11 priests and a nun of abusing them when they were children. Negotiations continue in the final two cases.
Church officials said they’d seek both diocese and outside financing to cover the settlement, and that it would be paid within 10 to 15 years.
Rhode Island is the most Roman Catholic state in the nation, with 624,000 Catholics out of a population of about 1 million people. It has more than 400 priests.
Separately, an Ohio priest said Monday he was confident he would be exonerated in a case involving a complaint over files found on church computers.
But the Rev. Thomas Kuhn told church officials he would resign as pastor of a Dayton parish because the investigation had “gone on too long.”
Kuhn was placed on administrative leave three months ago when the archdiocese received the complaint. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department investigated and gave its findings to the county prosecutor, but no charges have been filed. Officials refuse to say anything about the computer files, or the complaint.
“I have done nothing that they’re going to come back and say that this was wrong or illegal,” Kuhn said. “I think, in the end, that’s the way it’s going to come out.”