Lawyer calls Worcester diocese settlement
offer too low
By David Abel, Globe Staff
October 20, 2004
The Diocese of Worcester, MA has offered ''insulting"
settlements to several men who they were molested by priests
in parishes there, a lawyer representing 10 of about 25 of
the diocese's alleged victims said yesterday.
The attorney, Carmen L. Durso, said the diocese offered $3,000
to one of his clients, a man in his 40s allegedly molested
in the 1970s. The diocese offered two of his other clients,
brothers allegedly abused while serving as altar boys in the
1980s, $7,500 each, Durso said.
''These offers are unreasonable, insulting, and unchristian,"
Durso said. ''The offers are so low -- they're 10 to 20 percent
of what other places have offered -- they devalue the lives
of the people abused."
A diocese official would not comment on the amount of church
settlement offers, but he acknowledged they're lower than
those offered to victims of clergy abuse in Boston and elsewhere.
Last year, the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay $85 million
to settle 541 sexual-abuse claims.
The reason the offers are lower, Diocese Chancellor Thomas
Sullivan said, is because the church is claiming ''charitable
immunity," and therefore, by law, does not have to pay
victims more than $20,000.
''These offers are certainly lower," said Sullivan,
noting the Supreme Judicial Court ruling this year against
plaintiffs seeking to outlaw state caps on the legal liability
of charitable institutions. ''All future litigation, not just
in clergy sexual abuse, will be far less because of the charitable
The diocese also has kept its offers low, he said, because
officials contend many of the cases lack merit. ''Some of
the cases have very weak merits," Sullivan said. ''You
do more for victims of egregious claims than those without
as much merit."
At a news conference yesterday, Durso also called on Worcester
Bishop Robert J. McManus to meet with the alleged victims
and their attorneys.
But Sullivan said the bishop would not meet with them until
after the litigation is resolved. ''It's not going to happen,"
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company