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Apr-18-2007 01:41printcomments

Oregon Sex Abuse Victims in Catholic Church Scandal Awarded Over $50 Million

More than 200 victims will share the amount that slightly tops $50 million.

Former sex abuse victim Bill Crane
Former sex abuse victim Bill Crane is among those who will receive compensation.
Photo by: Tim King

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - A settlement in a Portland, Oregon court means victims of childhood sex abuse in the Catholic Church will be compensated with millions of dollars, and secret files relating to pedophile priests in the Portland Archdiocese that span half a century will be publicly disclosed.

More than 200 victims will share the amount that slightly tops $50 million.

More than 89 lawyers were involved in the case at one time or another. All had high remarks for the judges who worked tirelessly in bringing the case resolution.

10 insurance companies were involved with the claims of abuse that span from 1944 to 1986. Two of the companies were out of business by the time this case came around. In the end, they were able to sift through the multiple layers of insurance, and different types of policies, and essentially arrange a deal that allowed them to be bought back.

Judge Michael Hogan says it is difficult to settle any cases alone. Of the more than 200 cases settled before this, some were battled in state court, some in federal and even bankruptcy court

Plaintiffs in the case hailed from many places in addition to Oregon, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Lafayette Louisiana, Seattle, Los Angeles, London and other places.

The settlement ends a six-month gag order, and Judge Hogan says 6-8 months of trial time were avoided through the settlement.

A heartfelt apology was offered by the Archbishop of the Portland Diocese, John George Vlazny.

“I take this opportunity to extend a sincere apology to our all our abused sisters and brothers and their families, those who were victimized in any way as a result of this scandal.”

Some victims will never fully heal, according to John Rickman, an educator with the Portland, Oregon Archdiocese.

“You know as we stand here today there are a lot of wounds that need to heal, some will take several years and some may not heal at all but as parishioners we believe in the mercy of Jesus Christ and we pray that this trust and his mercy will allow the healing process to begin.”

Attorney Michael Morey who was closely involved in the case, says this is a day when people feel recognized, “This is a day to celebrate the clients, the victims who stood up, who came forward to tell the truth. They told the truth, they were heard, they were validated.” Some former victims in attendance say they honestly believed at one point that they would never see this day.

But the road leading up to this day has been rocky at best; the Catholic Church filed bankruptcy in fear of seeing their doors close according to Archbishop Vlazny, but this caused friction between the victims and other Catholic parishioners at a time when previous cases were moving forward.

"By July 6th, in the year 2004, we had reached settlement with 149 victims, but on that day we filed for protection in the federal bankruptcy court. We did this in order to be able to continue the mission of the church and also make an honest effort to compensate the victims as fairly as possible.

And part of that compensation will mean additional transparency in church records, according to the Honorable Michael Hogan.

“There will be a public disclosure of relevant documents and personnel files involved in these various claims.

"There has been an agreement in principle among the parties that will happen in mid-May there are some limited reductions because of the privacy of some folks and because there are some non Archdiocese people mentioned in files. But there will be a very open and public disclosure of those documents.”

Attorney David Slater says it is truly a move in the right direction, “We are especially pleased by Archbishop Velasney’s decision to renounce the secrecy and protectiveness of the past, and agree to the public release of a substantial portion of the personnel records of the offending priests.”

Kelly Clark has been representing plaintiffs in cases like this for many years. He says progress may be slow, but it is underway.

“I have seen steady if gradual changes in the way the archdioceses has approached these cases.

"The archdiocese now has in place a strong policy for preventing child abuse into the future and I believe that its training and screening processes are much improved from the years past."

Clark says the archdiocese now understands that when it comes to civil actions made against it as a result of the actions of its agents, "that doing the right thing and doing the smart thing has been the same thing.”

Toward the end of a press conference held Tuesday, former victim Bill Crane asked Vlazny if a memorial for victims might be in the works, “Will you be willing to work with us in the months and days ahead on a memorial to commemorate victims?"

Vlazny's response passed the responsibility of such a project onto the public.

“Well I think the principle concern we have is that we can achieve reconciliation and I think that kind of conversation can be engaged and maybe it has to address more than just the church because there are victims of child sexual abuse that have not been even acknowledged in this process and maybe there is something for the larger community to discuss, whether we want to memorialize victims of childhood sexual abuse, but certainly the church wants to work toward reconciliation with everyone that was hurt and maybe that’s the piece that is missing, and that’s hopefully what we can achieve in the coming years.”

The judges and attorneys involved in the case say they are convinced that the interests of the citizens of Oregon were well served in the settlement, as well as the victims of child abuse in the Catholic Church, many of whom may now be able to gain an additional amount of closure.


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Marcus Mann April 18, 2007 10:59 pm (Pacific time)

Great report, thanks for bringing the extra details that TV always seems to miss. This is an amazing gesture from the Catholic Church and it is a sign of ongoing progress, bravo!

Victim of another Abuse April 18, 2007 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

Whoever said the wounds may not heal is correct. I was not molested as a child but other things were done or not done (which is a form of deprivation). The Psychologist I went to once I was 20yrs for help continued a different type of abuse and when eventually sued, after a long legal mess, he essentially killed himself and was broke. The insurance company was able to back out but I never sued for the money. As with many people it is to show yourself that you are not helpless and can at least try even if you do not succeed. The real tragedy is that the human psyche can only take so much abuse over time, in my case decades. I may never heal and that is all that I care about at this point in my life. Be careful not to judge people so quickly because the outside is as much of a shell as the bodies you see in funeral homes.

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