The news that California clergy abuse victims are reaping more than $600 million to settle claims against pedophile priests has been bittersweet for some survivors in Massachusetts. The Los Angeles diocese plans to hold a press conference today to discuss the landmark $660 million settlement with more than 500 abuse victims, who'll each receive about $1 million.
The Archdiocese of Boston was one of the first to settle with victims in the wake of the scandal, paying $85 milion in 2003 for 552 claims. Since then, Catholic dioceses' payouts have swelled, angering survivors like Alexa MacPherson, 32, of Holbrook.
"I'd like to know where the hell they got that kind of money," asked MacPherson, who received $250,000 in the Boston settlement after being molested as a child by Dorchester priest Peter Kanchong. "It feels like maybe they are more recognized than we are."
Bay State attorneys said big settlements come easier in California, where victims had a one-year window to file civil lawsuits against the diocese, regardless of when the abuse occurred. Also, Massachusetts churches are protected by a $20,000 charitable immunity litigation cap.
Still, many lawyers and victims, including MacPherson, say money does little to salve deep wounds.
"It's misunderstood that if you reach a settlement you are healed," said Christine Hickey, 50, of Cambridge, a victim of former Fall River priest James Porter.
Carmen L. Durso, who represents priest abuse victims, said often criminal prosection is not possible because priests have died, records have disappeared and statutes of limitation have run out. "The only justice they can get now is by pursuing these cases," he said.
For some survivors, like Susan Renehan, 59, of Southbridge, there is no justice. "I'm still a little bitter," said Renehan, who claims she was abused by a priest in New Jersey in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Renehan cannot bring charges or sue because the statute of limitations has passed. But, she said, "I'm very happy for the people in L.A."