Sex-Abuse Lawsuits Against Church Not Slowing Down Despite Settlement

A multimillion-dollar settlement between the Archdiocese of Boston and 86 people who claim they were victims of sexual molestation by a priest hasn't slowed the ever-increasing barrage of such lawsuits. 

Even as a lawyer announced a settlement of up to $30 million at a news conference Tuesday, several attorneys said alleged victims have filed at least 58 additional lawsuits against church workers or clergy, and more than a hundred people have contacted lawyers with claims of abuse. 

"This obviously will not put the issue involving ... sex abuse by priests to an end," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented the 86 victims and families claiming sexual molestation by defrocked priest John J. Geoghan. "The investigations continue." 

Under the settlement, which was reached Monday night after months of negotiations, the alleged victims and families will receive a total of $15 million to $30 million, according to Garabedian. 

A dollar amount for most of the 86 will be determined during meetings with arbitrators, based on harm each suffered. The meetings, to be held between April and October, will determine compensation and not liability. 

"Accepting this money is not going to end the turmoil in their lives," said Garabedian. "They are not going to be buying yachts and floating around the Bahamas. There's tremendous pain here." 

Attorney Jeffrey Newman, who has filed 47 additional civil lawsuits against clergy and church workers, said discussions are already under way with the archdiocese about starting mediation and arriving at a sum to be distributed among victims. 

In a statement, archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said the settlement "is not an ending, but part of a larger effort to protect children, increase outreach to victims, continue the healing, and implement policy changes to make sure every measure is taken to prevent the abuse of children." 

The archdiocese came under increased pressure in January following reports that it had ignored warnings about Geoghan, despite allegations of pedophilia stretching back three decades and across six parishes. 

Geoghan has been accused by 130 people of molesting them during his decades as a priest. He is serving a 9- to 10-year prison sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy, and faces another criminal trial. Two child rape charges against him were dropped last week after a judge ruled the statute of limitations had expired. 

Cardinal Bernard F. Law has since established a "zero tolerance" policy and given prosecutors names of 80 priests accused of abuse over five decades, and suspended 10 active priests. He had been criticized for reassigning accused priests to other churches. 

"This settlement is an important step in reaching closure for these victims who have long endured the damage done to them by John Geoghan," Law said Tuesday in a prepared statement. 

Law has repeatedly apologized, but rebuffed calls for his resignation. The Boston Herald in Wednesday's editions called for Law to step down, saying that he "simply is in no position to expect anyone to accept his authority on moral issues again." 

The archdiocese, which has already paid an estimated $15 million to 40 alleged victims of Geoghan since the mid-1990s, will pay for the settlement with insurance, sales of assets and private donations, and not church collection money, according to chief financial officer, Chancellor David Smith. 

The church will set aside $7.5 million in an escrow account when all the victims and defendants have signed the settlement, Garabedian said, probably within two to three weeks. Each of his clients, he said, have verbally agreed to it. 

Several of the 86 victims — 70 alleged victims and 16 parents — expressed relief that their legal ordeal is over, but felt no sense of victory. 

"I can't feel proud about sitting here," said John Greene, 42, of Saugus, who appeared at Tuesday's press conference. "I'm embarrassed. This is something I've been living with all my life and I'm embarrassed. All I was trying to do was help myself. I was just trying to move on in my life." 

Meanwhile, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported Wednesday that Thomas V. Daily, the former bishop of Palm Beach, was named in the settled lawsuits as one of the church officials who kept silent despite mounting evidence that Geoghan could not control his impulses. 

Daily, 75, now bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn in New York, could not be reached for comment by the newspaper.