Diocese Of Charleston Reaches Sexual Abuse Suit Settlement

ABC News 4, Charleston/January 26, 2007
By Sarah DeMarco

Charleston, SC - The Diocese of Charleston reaches a 12 million dollar class action agreement for child sexual abuse cases. The Diocese has already paid close to 3 million dollars, resolving some 50 claims of childhood sexual abuse against Priests, clergymen and Diocese faculty dating back to 1950. In an attempt to resolve any unreported cases, it may pay up to 12 million more.

"One of the things that's hardest for the victims is these were people they trusted. Most of them it happened in their young teens, that formidable age of who to look for with advice and who they respect," says David Haller, legal counsel representing the claimants.

All victims who enter the suit will remain anonymous. So far three individuals allege Father James Nyhan fondled them while in the 8th grade at the Nativity Catholic School. A fourth has accused the late Father Lawrence Sheady. All four, plus 3 family member have reached settlements totaling more than a half a million dollars. 8 additional claims are now under review. "We gotten to the point and we all believe in a just resolution. We want healing and justice for all and it's a fact that we're here and ready to resolve," says Peter Shahid, who represents the Diocese.

Other Diocese have gone bankrupt from similar sexual abuse suits filed against them, but the Diocese of Charleston believes by reaching a class action agreement and resolving claims they know are valid, this step will prevent a possible bankruptcy situation in the future.

"It is my fervent hope that this settlement will allow us, as the Catholic community of faith in South Carolina, to bring closure to an ugly period in our history and look forward with joyful hope to the future of our Church," says the Rev. Bishop Robert B. Baker.

The settlement will award up to $200,000 to individuals born on or before August 30th, 1980, who as minors were sexually abused by someone associated with the Diocese. Parents and spouses may receive up to $20,000. A fairness hearing for final approval of the agreement is set for March 9th.

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