MA diocese urged to settle claims
Lawyer calls current offers un-Christian
By Kathleen A. Shaw TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso yesterday called
on the Diocese of Worcester to bypass the court system and enter
into direct negotiations to settle the pending lawsuits alleging
clergy sexual abuse.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Lawyers representing the diocese are offering as little as
$3,000 or $7,500 in some of these cases, said Mr. Durso, who
represents 10 alleged clergy abuse victims in the Worcester
diocese. He called the offers insulting, demeaning and
Mr. Durso said the diocese is adhering to the states
charitable immunity cap on settlements while other dioceses,
including Boston, have waived or modified it to properly compensate
James Gavin Reardon Jr., lawyer for the diocese, said the
lawyers for plaintiffs are entitled to their opinion
but he said they and their clients chose to file civil suits
and they need to be resolved through the legal system.
Mr. Reardon said several suits have been settled and others
should be moving to trial by June. He said the cases are moving
forward in a professional manner. Some plaintiffs have chosen
to settle their suits for the amounts offered while others
have not, he added. Its their right, he
I dont see that as realistic, Mr. Reardon
said of the lawyers request that direct negotiations
open with the diocese. These civil suits need to be
resolved, he added.
A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, Mr. Durso referred
to a Catholic doctrine of restorative justice that teaches
that a Christian who has wronged another person has a responsibility
to make adequate compensation.
Mr. Durso, joined by lawyers Daniel J. Shea of Houston and
Nance Lyons of Boston during a press conference, said his
research shows Worcester is making the lowest settlement offers
of any diocese in the United States and the world.
They were also joined in front of the courthouses statue
of Moses by a mother of an alleged clergy abuse victim, two
alleged clergy abuse victims and representatives of Voice
of the Faithful and Worcester Voice. The press conference
followed a hearing at which the lawyers reported on the status
of their cases to Judge Jeffrey A. Locke, who has been assigned
to handle the clergy abuse cases in the Worcester Diocese.
I want to see my child smile again, said Eunice
White of Worcester, who identified herself as the mother of
an alleged victim of the Rev. Raymond P. Messier.
She referred to a statement made by Bishop Robert J. McManus
in opposition to homosexual activity that a man should
not be with a man.
I will say that a priest should not be with a boy,
Mrs. White said. She said she remains a devout Catholic, despite
the alleged abuse of her son. I have never blamed God
or my faith. I blame the people running the church.
David Lewcon of Uxbridge, alleged victim of the Rev. Thomas
Teczar, said he settled his civil suit against the diocese
for $110,000 five years ago. And I thought that was
cheap, he said. Mr. Lewcon said his civil suit dragged
on for eight years before being settled.
Mr. Durso said the diocese at one time would waive the charitable
immunity cap, which is $20,000, and give a victim more money
if he or she was willing to sign a confidentially agreement
and remain silent about the abuse.
Phil Saviano, now in the Boston area, accepted a settlement
of about $12,000 in his lawsuit against the diocese in the
1990s but would have gotten more if he had agreed to the confidentiality
clause, he said. An alleged victim of the Rev. David A. Holley,
Mr. Saviano refused to remain silent and took the lesser amount.
Mr. Lewcon said he knows that during the 1990s suits were
settled for as high as $350,000 with confidentiality agreements.
Its a blot on Worcester, said Daniel Dick
of Worcester, who said the diocese should offer the victims
more money. If the diocese will not do it, he suggested that
community leaders and elected officials mobilize to bring
these civil suits to a just conclusion.
Mr. Dick is a victim support advocate for Worcester Diocese
Voice of the Faithful, a group of Catholics that formed throughout
the United States in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal
in the Catholic Church.
Susan Renehan of Southbridge, who is with the Coalition of
Catholics and Survivors, said the money being offered will
not cover therapy for a year for a victim.
The diocese said in its report to the bishops National
Review Board that 45 priests were credibly accused of sexual
abuse and a total of $2.3 million was paid out in settlements
between 1950 and 2003. Most of the money came from insurance.