Associated Press, Aug. 12, 2003
Boston (AP) – As alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse began considering the Boston archdiocese’s offer to settle 542 lawsuits, records were released publicly showing the archdiocese paid at least $21.2 million in settlements to 149 people from 1994 to 2001.
Annual reports prepared by church officials show that the archdiocese’s Sexual Misconduct Delegate’s Office received 210 new claims against church employees between July 1994 and October 2001. The records did not specify what happened to the other 61 cases.
The previously secret reports were made public Monday after they were released to lawyers representing alleged victims who have pending lawsuits against the archdiocese.
Attorney Jeffrey Newman, whose firm, Greenberg Traurig, represents about 260 alleged victims, said the records reinforce claims that top church administrators, including Cardinal Bernard Law, did little to address the problem of sexual abuse, despite the large number of complaints and eventual settlements.
“It is obvious from these documents that there were a significant number of claims that were occurring over the years and yet there was very little done to intervene and stop the problem,” Newman said.
State Attorney General Thomas Reilly included references to the documents last month when he released a scathing report on sexual abuse in the archdiocese over the past six decades. Lawyers for Greenberg Traurig then demanded the reports from the archdiocese. Although the reports are supposed to cover the fiscal years 1994-2001, some of the data is missing, including the report from 1999 and the settlement figure for fiscal year 2000.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said better record-keeping instituted in the 1990s in abuse cases showed the church had attempted to grapple with the problem at the time. He said he didn’t have a complete breakdown on the the 61 cases not listed as settled but said it probably includes many people who just sought money for counseling.
In his report, Reilly concluded that more than 1,000 children had probably been sexually abused by priests between 1940 and 2000. Reilly blasted Law and other church officials for a “massive, inexcusable failure” to stop the abuse.
A small group of lawyers representing alleged victims met Monday to begin drafting a response to the $55 million settlement proposal made Friday to 542 alleged victims.
Initial reaction to the offer was mixed. Some said it was a respectable starting point for negotiations; others said they would reject the proposal and take their cases to trial.
“Some desperately need the money and want this to be over and want to settle it right away, while some believe (even) $20 million isn’t enough for each victim,” said Paul Baier, president of Survivors First, a victims’ group founded after the crisis erupted in Boston last year.
The offer came just nine days after Archbishop Sean O’Malley was installed as the new leader of the Boston archdiocese following more than 18 months of turmoil.
In its proposal, the archdiocese said the money would be split according to the type and severity of abuse and damage sustained by each victim.