$21M Payout by Church

Bridgeport, Egan's ex-diocese, settles cases

Associated Press/October 17, 2003

Bridgeport, Conn. -- The Bridgeport Diocese announced a $21-million settlement yesterday with 40 people who said they were molested by priests as children, and the bishop publicly apologized to the victims.

The payout is believed to be the third-biggest settlement by a U.S. diocese since the scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church broke in Boston in 2002.

"Let me express my personal remorse and the remorse of the entire diocese for the harm that was caused in the lives of so many individuals," Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori said.

Lori said most of the alleged abuse took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Attorneys for the victims, however, said the abuse continued into the early 1990s, when New York Cardinal Edward Egan was Bridgeport bishop.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined to comment. Egan served in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

Lori said all but one of the 16 priests named in the settlement are no longer active in the church. Three are dead.

"This settlement represents vindication for all the survivors of clergy sex abuse and is an acknowledgment of their very personal ordeals," said Cindy Robinson, an attorney representing the victims.

The settlement is the second in two years for the diocese, which covers some of the wealthiest towns in the country, including Greenwich, Westport and New Canaan. The diocese reached a $15-million settlement in 2001 involving five priests and 26 plaintiffs.

Victims have claimed in lawsuits against the Bridgeport Diocese that when their parents complained about the abuse to diocesan officials they were told it would "be taken care of." Instead, they said, the offending priests were moved to other parishes.

In Boston yesterday, lawyers for hundreds of people who claim they were molested by priests said they are confident the required 80 percent of the 552 alleged victims will accept the Boston Archdiocese's $85-million settlement offer. The settlement agreement requires approval from at least 80 percent for it to take effect.

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