Spokane Catholic Diocese to Pay at Least $48 Million to Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse

All "material issues" in the Spokane Catholic Diocese bankruptcy case have been resolved, including payments of at least $48 million to victims of clergy sexual abuse, a federal mediator announced Thursday.

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Gregg W. Zive in Reno, Nev., presided over the six-month mediation that produced the settlement being filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here Thursday as part of a reorganization plan.

The plan must be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams and the victims of sexual abuse, who are considered creditors, Zive said.

"The economic portion of the global settlement totals at least $48 million and provides a mechanism for the payment of future claims," Zive said in a news release.

Zive said the settlement includes non-economic issues that will "help provide the survivors with some measure of closure and allow them to move forward and continue the healing process" while allowing the diocese to continue its mission.

The settlement would be financed by $20 million from six insurance carriers; another $18 million from the sale of the bishop's office building and other assets and contributions from other Catholic entities; and $10 million from the diocese's 82 parishes, he said.

Spokesman Eric Meisfjord said the diocese would have no immediate comment.

Spokane Bishop William Skylstad is president of U.S. Catholic bishops. He was among clergy accused of sexual abuse in the bankruptcy claims, but has vehemently denied having sexual relations with a woman in the 1960s.

The settlement is slightly more than the $45.7 million Skylstad offered last year to 75 plaintiffs. That offer was rejected because it failed to include victims who had not filed claims, or those who may file claims in the future. About 150 individual claims were filed against the diocese as part of the bankruptcy, although not all of those chose to sue.

The number of victims who would be covered by the settlement announced Thursday was not immediately clear.

Zive called the mediation process "a complex and often emotional process, but one that was essential to avoid protracted, debilitating, risky and expensive legal disputes."

"It is hoped that the resolution of this case will help provide the survivors with some measure of closure and allow them to move forward and continue the healing process," Zive wrote. "At the same time, the settlement will allow the Catholic Diocese of Spokane to continue its ministry and to begin its own journey of renewal, healing and hope."

The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004, citing claims by abuse victims of about $81.3 million against assets of about $11 million.

The diocese serves about 90,000 Catholics in 13 Eastern Washington counties.