The Fairbanks Catholic Diocese has agreed to almost $10 million settlement with almost 300 victims of clergy abuse. The announcement was made in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Nov. 24.
The first legal claim was filed more than 7 years ago but some of the victims say they have been waiting for almost 70 years, making today's news a long time coming.
"It validates the fact that people have been victimized," said victim's liaison, Elsie Boudreau. Bourdreau is also a victim survivor of clergy sexual abuse within the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese. She came forward with her story in 2003, filed a claim a year later and settled in 2005. Since then, Bourdreau has helped the nearly 300 victims who went through the same thing. "So many people talk about having black mark on their sole as a result of what happened," said Bourdreau.
Although today's settlement still needs court approval, some say it is a step in the right direction. "It establishes the framework for moving forward and taking the next step in this litigation," said victim's attorney, Ken Rossa.
According to Rossa, there could be more money on top of the settlement by pursuing the Bishops insurance, which could be up to $100 million. "We don't have any knowing right now what the timing will be on the second part of the compensation package," said Rossa.
As for how the settlement will be divided up. "We will actually have someone who will go through their files and look at what happened to them and how it affected their lives and try to come up with a fair way of calculating relative injury and using a formula how much each person should get of the limited amount of money available," said Rossa.
While some say the compensation is better than nothing, it does not make up for a scarred memory. "No amount of money is enough to make up for the loss childhood for the innocence stolen," said Bourdreau.
As this chapter closes, another will begin. "You want people to heal from this experience.
They are coming forward and speaking their truth and hopefully they will be able to find a way to heal," said Bourdreau.
Mr. Rossa says if the Bankruptcy Court approves the amount victims could start seeing the money at the end of February of next year.