Sex abuse victims settle with Archdiocese

KSBY TV, California/August 9, 2006
By Carina Corral

Many people who said they were molested at a Santa Barbara seminary by Franciscan friars, dropped their cases after reaching a settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In March, a settlement was thought to be reached, but victims and the Catholic Church had to go back for another round of talks to iron out some differences.

A final agreement was reached last week, and the Los Angeles Diocese awarded 26 victims more than $28 million.

Most said the sexual abuse happened at St. Anthony's Seminary and the Santa Barbara Mission between 1964 and 1987.

A father of one victim says his son was molested at St. Anthony's Seminary for three years. He also provided details on the settlement, and explained how the money will go toward helping victims of the Catholic Church.

Higgins' son was molested by former Priest Robert Van Handel, who is spending eight years in prison for sexually abusing boys at St. Anthony's Seminary.

Some of the settlement money will be used to help other victims. Eight people said they would donate five percent of their settlement earnings to Therapy Trust for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse, an organization started by Higgins. The total amount is $350,000.

"One of the main things that a settlement like this help the victim, is that it acknowledges the pain they've been in, and acknowledges the damages that have been brought on by these crimes," said Higgins.

Higgins' son will not see any of the recent settlement, because he settled out of court years ago. But the second part of the agreement will bring him closure. Personnel files are to be released with the next month, which tell all, like who the perpetrators are, what was known, and when the Catholic church found out about the abuses.

The settlement will be paid out between the insurance companies involved, the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Franciscan order.

It is believed the seminary at Santa Barbara was sold last year to help the Franciscans pay their part of the settlement.

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