After years of talks and marathon negotiations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has agreed to pay 144 victims abused by their priests $198.1 million. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, the settlement is more than twice what the diocese first offered before filing for bankruptcy protection in February. In fact, the Times article even states that the settlement even tops the average of $1.3 million in the recent landmark Los Angeles Archdiocese settlement with its victims.
The San Diego diocese’s lawyers had said at first that unlike Los Angeles, this diocese had no proper insurance coverage or assets to dole out the settlement without seriously hampering services provided by the church. But all that changed late August when a bankruptcy judge criticized a meager $95-million offer by the diocese and referred to the diocese’s financial record keeping as “Byzantine,” the Times article states.
The historic Los Angeles settlement was followed by emotional outbursts from victims and this one was no different. According to the article, many victims got permission to hug U.S. District Court Judge Leo Pappas, who oversaw the settlement negotiations, and even shake his hand and thank him. Many were crying and the judge himself became emotional, the article reports. The church issued a statement of apology. Church officials say the settlement takes them “beyond available resources” and will have a tremendous impact on the diocese’s services for years to come.
So who pays how much? According to the article, the diocese pays about $77 million, its insurance carrier shells out $75 million, religious orders will pay $30 million and the Diocese of San Bernardino, with help from its insurance carrier, will pay about $15 million.
This is in fact a great victory for victims who had the courage and conviction to come forward with their stories – definitely not an easy venture. They stuck through years of emotional trauma and as a result, children today are better off. These lawsuits are the main reason these dangerous sexual predators, who preyed on innocent children, have been removed from these parishes. These lawsuits are the reason those kids are safer today. I can tell you that no settlement can put these victims back in a place they were before the abuse occurred. Nothing can give them their childhood and innocence back.
But reliving that trauma by going through this legal process is their service and sacrifice for humanity. There will be no more secret documents. All details about the pedophile priests will be released to the public and they will demonstrate how diocese officials protected these dangerous predators by transferring them from one parish to another.
My prayers and best wishes are with the victims. I hope the settlement helps them put the bitterness of the past behind and move on toward a better tomorrow. Although justice in this case was much delayed, extending the pain and suffering, this settlement marks the end of that painful chapter.
Since the Los Angeles settlement, we have been hired by even more Catholic Church abuse victims. If you are in need of a completely confidential consultation regarding clergy or religious organization sexual abuse, call me, John Bisnar.
Here are some links with resources for victims of clergy abuse:
The Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests – www.snapnetwork.org
Educating to End Abuse – www.educatingtoendabuse.com
The Healing Alliance – www.healingall.org