Catholic Church Offers to Settle More Sex Abuse Claims in Boston

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has offered to settle another round of sexual abuse claims for less per person than it paid in hundreds of cases two years ago, according to several lawyers for alleged victims.

The offer was for $5,000 to $200,000 per claim, depending on the severity of the abuse and the strength of the allegations, said the lawyers, who represent about 100 alleged victims.

The Boston Globe, quoting unidentified plaintiffs' lawyers, reported Friday that the payout would total about $7.5 million for about 100 plaintiffs. That would amount to an average payout of about $75,000 if everyone were paid. The 2003 settlements, to 554 people, averaged $153,000.

Carmen Durso, who represents 33 plaintiffs, said that as part of the settlement, some of the alleged victims — those considered to have weaker cases — would have to prove to an arbitrator that the abuse took place. Some could face cross-examination by church lawyers.

Victims who were awarded settlements in 2003 also went before arbitrators, but they were not subject to cross-examination.

On Friday, the archdiocese issued a statement accusing some plaintiffs' attorneys of circulating "misleading or inaccurate information" about the settlements. The statement did not elaborate, however, on what it considers misleading or inaccurate.

"The goal of the settlement program is to compensate those survivors who have been abused by priests of the archdiocese and to do so in a way that is just and sensitive to the pastoral needs of the survivors," the statement said.

The archdiocese set a Feb. 2 deadline for the plaintiffs to accept the settlement offer, and several plaintiffs' lawyers plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the offer, Durso said Thursday.

Thomas H. Hannigan Jr., an attorney representing the archdiocese, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

However, attorneys Mitchell Garabedian and Mark Itzkowitz, who represent 61 plaintiffs between them, confirmed the proposed settlement terms as outlined by Durso. Roughly 100 other pending cases were being handled by other lawyers, and it was not clear if they had similar offers pending.

Patrick Jones, president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, said other factors may explain why the two groups of plaintiffs have been treated differently.

"It would appear to a casual observer that the second wave of settlement offers is the product of a more difficult economic climate for the archdiocese, as well as some legitimate concern about the bona fide nature of some small percentage of these alleged abusive acts," Jones said.

Since the 2003 settlement, the archdiocese has cut costs by closing or consolidating dozens of its 357 parishes.