MO - Archdiocese claims its abuse costs rising
It says it’s spent more than $10 million over a decade
More than 70% of money spent goes to church lawyers
In six of ten years, church pays more to its lawyers than to victims
For immediate release: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013
Figures just released by the St. Louis Catholic archdiocese show that, over the past decade, the church here claims to have spent $10,261,000 on “clergy misconduct.”
More than 70% of that has reportedly gone to archdiocesan defense lawyers.
The figures come from the archdiocese “financial review,” published in Friday’s St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan website.
This is the sixth time in the last ten years that the archdiocese gave more money to its lawyers than to abuse victims.
The spending was criticized by leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“It’s sad that after a solid decade, Catholic officials are still spending more on fighting victims than helping victims, more on defense lawyers than on wounded victims," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP's outreach director. “The reason for this disparity is pure selfishness. Archdiocesan officials are willing to spend whatever it takes to protect their own reputations and hide their own wrongdoing.”
Dorris notes that the only civil clergy sex abuse and cover up trial in St. Louis was held in 1999. (A jury awarded a victim of Fr. James Gummersbach $1.2 million which was later overturned on appeal.) There have been at least two criminal clergy sex abuse trials in the archdiocese. Both Fr. Bryan Kuchar (2003) and Fr. Thomas Graham (2005) were found guilty of child sex crimes.
“The church’s top priority should be protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “The numbers show, sadly, that the archdiocese is primarily committed to protecting its image and assets instead.”
“If you factor in public relations expenses and other factors, we suspect the real figure is much higher,” Clohessy said.
Last year, the archdiocese changed lawyers, replacing Bernie and Lucie Huger and naming Tom Buckley as “in-house” counsel.
“That fact, plus the fact that Archbishop Robert Carlson keeps claiming that the archdiocese is doing better with abuse, should lead to lower abuse costs,” Dorris said.
SNAP suspects that last year’s higher costs may stem from the pending civil and criminal cases involving Fr. Joseph Jiang. In the civil suit, Carlson is accused of attempting to tamper with evidence by asking Fr. Jiang’s alleged victim’s parents to give to Carlson a $20,000 check that Fr. Jiang left with them.
For the last eight years in a row, no expenditures are listed for “clergy counseling.”
“If that indicates that none of the dozens of suspended pedophile priests are getting treatment, that’s very troubling,” said Dorris. “There’s little evidence that child molesters can be ‘cured,’ but that doesn’t mean the archdiocese should ignore them.”
Many also have other addictions or mental health issues that, if addressed, may reduce the chances they’ll abuse again, Dorris said.