BOSTON (AP) – More than two decades after she was first abused at age 6, a woman finally got to tell her story Tuesday as she described for an arbitrator how she was molested hundreds of times over five years by a Roman Catholic priest.
Arbitration sessions began Tuesday to determine how victims of clergy sexual abuse will be compensated under an $85 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Boston. It is the largest-known payout by a U.S. diocese to settle molestation charges.
Christine, 28, who asked that her last name not be used, said it was both “intimidating” and “liberating” for her to go through the details of her molestation by the late Rev. Joseph McInnis, a priest at St. Monica’s Parish in Boston.
“It felt good that somebody had to listen to what had happened to me,” she said.
Similar sessions will be held over the next two months for each of the victims who agree to the process. By Tuesday, more than 80 percent of the 552 plaintiffs had signed agreements. Lawyers for the victims said they expect 90 to 98 percent to sign on by Thursday’s deadline.
The agreement calls for non-confrontational arbitration sessions.
“There is no cross-examination,” said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents Christine and 119 other plaintiffs. “It is the victim’s day in court. It is the victim’s day to state what they’ve been wanting to state for months, if not years, to an individual who will make a determination on his or her case.”
Victims are allowed to take a relative or friend along for support, and may also have a psychologist testify about the effects of the abuse. They may ask that a church representative attend to listen to their account.
“People will be allowed to go in there and let it all hang out or sit silently and cry, depending which they feel most capable of doing,” said attorney Carmen Durso, whose represents 39 victims.
The arbitrators do not have any set formula for determining individual payments, within a range of $80,000 to $300,000, said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., whose firm represents nearly half of the 552 plaintiffs.
They will consider the type, severity and duration of the abuse, but the emphasis will be on how the abuse has affected each person and what kind of suffering it has caused, MacLeish said.
Once the sessions are completed in mid-December, all the arbitrators will meet to discuss their recommendations. Durso said the amounts could then be adjusted upward or downward, depending on whether there are large disparities in similar cases.
A 41-year-old man who had his arbitration session Tuesday said he cried as he described how the late Rev. John Geoghan molested him when he was 12 and 13 years old, but he said he believes arbitration is a fair way to determine the individual awards.
“As hard as it was to do, it went as well as possible,” he said.
Geoghan, whose case triggered the Boston scandal, was murdered two months ago in prison while serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy. He had been accused in civil lawsuits of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades.