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Boston Archdiocese faces new sexual abuse claims

Less than a year after it paid $85 million to settle 541 sexual abuse claims, the Archdiocese of Boston is facing at least 140 new claims that a church spokesman says the church cannot now afford to settle, in part because it has been unable to recoup money from its insurance policies to cover last year's settlement.

The new claims, which lawyers handling the cases say involve charges against priests that span the 1950s to the 1980s, have presented Archbishop Sean O'Malley with a potentially huge bill. Even if the suits were settled for the $20,000 maximum allowed under the charitable immunity standard, the archdiocese could be facing claims worth nearly $3 million. If the archdiocese followed the standard it set in settling the 541 cases, the bill would be more in the range of $20 million, legal analysts say.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for O'Malley, said none of the funds raised by property sales or by closing parishes would be used to settle sexual abuse claims.  "Our intention is that the money used to pay the settlements should come from the insurance sources, not pastoral sources," said Coyne.

Of the priests who are the subjects of the new allegations, Coyne said, only one had not been accused by plaintiffs from last year's settlement. Coyne said the name of that priest was not available.

Carmen Durso, one of the lawyers who have sent claims to the archdiocese since last year's settlement, said many of those who came forward after last year's settlement did so because they believed they would be treated fairly and compassionately by O'Malley.

Other lawyers familiar with the claims say the archdiocese's lawyer, Thomas Hannigan, has informed plaintiff attorneys the archdiocese is not prepared to enter negotiations, given the uncertainties of its finances.

Hannigan declined to be interviewed, referring questions to Coyne, who said the archdiocese has not begun negotiations on the new claims because it does not have the money to settle them.

"Tom (Hannigan) said everyone's understood that from the very beginning. We've been letting the lawyers know that we would not be moving forward with negotiations until we have settled with our insurance carriers," said Coyne.

Coyne said lawyers representing alleged victims have been understanding of the archdiocese's financial situation, but at least one lawyer said he is unmoved by the archdiocese's claims that it cannot settle any new cases until it recoups insurance money.

Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer whose litigation against the late defrocked priest John Geoghan led to the scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic church worldwide and forced Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as archbishop of Boston, said he would push forward with his claims. Garabedian said he believes the archdiocese has plenty of resources to settle the claims.

Source: Boston Globe


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