American Catholic church sex abuse settlements top $1B

Associated Press/June 10, 2005

The cost to the U.S. Roman Catholic Church of sexual predators in the priesthood has climbed past $1 billion, according to tallies by American bishops and an Associated Press review of known settlements.

And the figure is guaranteed to rise, probably by tens of millions of dollars, because hundreds more claims are pending.

Dioceses around the country have spent at least $1.06 billion on settlements with victims, verdicts, legal fees, counseling and other expenses since 1950, the AP found.

A large share of the costs - at least $378 million - have been incurred in just the past three years, when the crisis erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread nationwide. The Hub archdiocese settled with 552 victims for $85 million in 2003.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who left a promising career with the church to help represent victims, had warned the bishops in 1985 that abuse costs could eventually exceed $1 billion.

``Nobody believed us,'' said Doyle, a canon lawyer. ``I remember one archbishop telling me, `My feeling about this, Tom, is no one's ever going to sue the Catholic Church.' ''

A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, said church leaders believe the payouts ``should be just to all sides.'' He said victims deserve compensation, but the church must also have enough money to continue serving parishioners.

In a development yesterday, the Boston archdiocese announced the Holy See recently defrocked six more local priests accused of abuse: John Connell, Denis Conte, Peter Frost, John Hanlon, Richard Matte and Paul David White.

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