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Archive for Saturday, May 4, 2002

Archdiocese reneges on settlement with alleged abuse victims

May 4, 2002

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— The Archdiocese of Boston on Friday backed out of a settlement with 86 people who accuse now-defrocked priest John Geoghan of sexual abuse, saying the deal was too expensive given the growing number of potential victims.

The archdiocese's finance council rejected Cardinal Bernard Law's request to sign the settlement agreement, estimated to be worth $15 million to $30 million.

The council said the settlement would "leave the archdiocese unable to provide a just and proportional response to other victims," according to David W. Smith, chancellor for the archdiocese.

Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged Geoghan victims, alled the council's decision "a revictimization" of his clients.

"This is a disgrace. Are these people inhuman?" Garabedian said.

The council recommended providing counseling for the victims and their families and creating a victims' fund that would not cripple the archdiocese and its mission, 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."

The agreement between the archdiocese and the 86 plaintiffs was reached in March, when the church officials believed the number of additional victims would be very small. "It has become increasingly obvious over the last 90 days that that's not the case," Smith said.

The Archdiocese of Boston already has paid an estimated $15 million to 40 alleged Geoghan victims since the mid-1990s and faces dozens more claims and hundreds of new allegations against him and other priests.

Geoghan was convicted in January of molesting a 10-year-old boy and is serving a 9- to 10-year prison sentence. Records showed church officials knew Geoghan had been accused of abuse but kept moving him from parish to parish.

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