BOSTON – The 86 accusers of now-defrocked priest John Geoghan will have to wait a little longer to be compensated, as the Archdiocese of Boston on Friday backed out of a settlement agreement worth between an estimated $15 million to $30 million.
The archdiocese's finance council rejected Cardinal Bernard Law's request to sign the deal, saying it was too expensive as the list of potential victims of sexual abuse grows.
The council said the settlement would eat up all the archdiocese's resources "that can reasonably be made available and therefore, such an action would leave the archdiocese unable to provide a just and proportional response to other victims," according to David W. Smith, chancellor for the archdiocese.
"This is a disgrace. Are these people inhuman?" said Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged Geoghan victims. He called the decision "a revictimization of these poor souls."
Garabedian said he had been assured the settlement would be enacted and that the finance committee had only an advisory role.
News of the decision comes on the same day that the Rev. Paul Shanley, the retired Boston priest who has been accused of repeatedly raping a child over a seven-year period, waived his right to fight extradition. He will return to Massachusetts to face criminal charges.
In the Geoghan case, the council recommended providing counseling for the victims and their families and creating "a non-litigious global assistance fund" for the victims to share. Those funds would be divided based on the degree of abuse suffered, and in amounts that would not sink the archdiocese and its mission, the council said, according to Smith.
"That's our professed hope, that there will be fairness and equity overall," said Regina Gaines, an administrator at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who serves on the council. "It's just such a never-ending situation, one wonders about just making sure everyone is treated fairly and equitably."
Negotiators spent 11 months hammering out a deal before an agreement was reached in March.
The Archdiocese of Boston already has paid an estimated $15 million since the mid-1990s to 40 people who have alleged abuse at Geoghan’s hands. The archdiocese faces dozens more allegations and hundreds of new claims against him and other priests.
Geoghan was sentenced to 9 to 10 years in prison in January for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Records showed church officials knew Geoghan had been accused of abuse but continued to shuttle him from parish to parish.
Along with Cardinal Law, Wilson Rogers Jr., attorney for the archdiocese, urged the council members to vote in favor of the settlement, Smith said.
The decision to reject the deal was the first time since Law came to Boston in 1984 that the council did not give its required consent to something he supported.
Law expressed regret about the vote, since the council had previously expressed a desire to see the settlement go forward, Smith said.
"He lives and we all live with the painful truth that in this crisis there is no easy answer," Smith said.
Ralph DelVecchio, one of the plaintiffs, said he was astonished at the news that the diocese had backed out of the settlement.
"I don't understand why everyone keeps talking about money," he said. "If the church did what they were supposed to do years ago, they wouldn't be in this position. They kept moving the priest around. They made their bed, and now they're worried about paying."
Jeffrey Newman, an attorney who represents more than 100 alleged victims of other priests, said any chance of settling with the archdiocese has "imploded" because he couldn't take the church at its word.
"This set off a powder keg," Newman said. "These poor individuals were already emotionally fragile, and the church raised expectations that they could relax for the first time in their lives."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.