Nova Scotia Catholic diocese reaches proposed settlement in clergy abuse suit

Jurist, Canada/August 7, 2009

A Canadian Catholic diocese on Friday reached a proposed settlement agreement [text, PDF; press release] in a class action suit alleging that diocesan priests sexually abused children. Under the terms of the agreement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish [diocesan website] would establish a CAD $12 million fund from which people who were abused by priests since 1950, or their estates, could be compensated for pain and suffering, the costs of necessary counseling, lost wages, and legal costs. At a Friday press conference [statement text] with lead plaintiff Ron Martin, Bishop Raymond Lahey [diocesan profile] formally apologized to the victims and their families, and called the agreement a "symbolically important" step toward reconciliation:

I believe that in this Settlement, by avoiding adversarial procedures, we have created a fair and respectful process. We have worked together to achieve genuine mutual agreement. To the extent that we can, we want to correct the wrongs of the past. While we have not short-circuited due process-we have learned from other situations - and we have been very sensitive to ensure a procedure of verification that is truly respectful.

Martin brought the suit after his brother's 2002 suicide note alleged that he was abused by a former priest, Hugh Vincent MacDonald. MacDonald was facing 27 charges [CP report], including rape, when he died in 2004. The settlement must be approved by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia [official website] prior to taking effect. Hearings on the certification of the class and approval of the agreement are scheduled for September 10 and 11.

In December, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts [diocesan website] settled [JURIST report] 59 sexual abuse claims against the church through voluntary arbitration for $4.5 million, adding to a total payout of $12.5 million in settlement claims. Also last year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence [diocesan website] reached a settlement [JURIST report] in four abuse suits. In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] the creation of a $1.25 million fund, and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego [diocesan website] announced an agreement [JURIST report] to pay $198.1 million to settle claims of sexual abuse by their clergy. A Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2007 approved a $660 million settlement [JURIST report] between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [diocesan website] and plaintiffs in 508 outstanding clergy sex abuse lawsuits. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against its own priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.

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