Phoenix diocese abuse victims get $2.7M

The Arizona Republic/September 20, 2003
By Michael Clancy

Sexual abuse of children has cost the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix more than $2.7 million over the past 34 years, with two-thirds used to pay victims in the settlement of 14 legal claims, the diocese said this week.

And that may be just the beginning of costs associated with the scandal. The diocese has been named as a defendant in at least six more lawsuits, with the potential for others. If settled for the same average as the previous 14, costs could reach another $750,000.

The diocese said the total spent in the scandal covers a period from the creation of the diocese in December 1969 to the present.

The diocese did not divulge the sources of its payments, but officials have pointed out that at least some of its donations - the annual Charity and Development Appeal, school tuition funds and others - were not tapped.

The Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which released a financial statement in January, reported its total at $1.6 million. That did not include a confidential settlement of 11 lawsuits in January 2002 that is estimated to have cost as much as $16 million.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, interim administrator of the Phoenix diocese, said the information's release demonstrates a new climate in the diocese.

"In releasing this information about the financial implications of clergy misconduct, we are being open with the community and cooperating with the media, which have an important role in informing our community," he said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of sexual misconduct by clergy, and I want to assure victims that counseling is available. Moreover, we pledge our ongoing efforts to create safe environments so that no one else is victimized."

Sandy Simonson, Arizona coordinator for the lay group Voice of the Faithful, said Phoenix diocesan officials "don't even know how to be open communicators." She said church members tried to get an accounting of sex-abuse costs for several years, only to be refused.

"This should be on the diocesan Web site and in the Catholic Sun," the diocesan newspaper, she said.

Phoenix Diocese Finances:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix this week released an updated accounting of its costs associated with the sexual abuse of children by priests, as well as a list of priests accused of sexual abuse:

  • 14 claim settlements, $1.8 million
  • Legal fees, $438,000
  • Counseling fees for victims, $77,700
  • County attorney's investigation costs, $100,000
  • County attorney's victims' fund, $300,000
  • Total: $2,715,700

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