The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Fairbanks Diocese agrees to $10 million abuse settlement; Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)
When finalized, we hope this step helps bring desperately needed comfort, closure and healing to the hundreds of deeply wounded men and women who endured horrific child sex crimes at the hands of trusted Catholic clerics. Much of their suffering could have been prevented and lessened had church officials acted with even a minimum of decency, compassion and courage.
We applaud every single victim who found the strength to speak up, expose predators, and protect kids. We also applaud those who are getting therapy and are recovering. Every single time a child sex abuse victim takes a step forward - whether calling police, telling relatives, getting counseling, filing lawsuits - our society becomes safer for children.
Settling with those who've been wounded by predator priests is only half the battle. Now, it's crucial that Catholics and victims pressure church officials to end decades of recklessness, deceit and secrecy surrounding child sex crimes.
The Fairbanks diocese should now post on its website (and publish in its parish bulletins and diocesan newspaper) the names and whereabouts of every proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting cleric - living or dead, diocesan or religious order, priest or nun. That's the bare minimum every bishop should do to safeguard vulnerable children.
In our view, it's always irresponsible and self-serving for Catholic officials to seek bankruptcy protection in order to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up. Catholic authorities claim they turn to the Chapter 11 process to make sure "all get treated fairly." That's a ruse. They seek bankruptcy protection to prevent trials, trials at which top church managers will be exposed as corrupt and complicit through questioning under oath.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)
Fairbanks Diocese agrees to $10 million abuse settlement
by Mary Beth Smetzer / firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBANKS — The details are still being worked out, but the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks has reached an economic settlement of almost $10 million with a committee representing almost 300 alleged sex abuse victims.
Attorneys on both sides spoke at a status hearing held in federal bankruptcy court in Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon before Judge Donald McDonald.
Terms of the agreement are being fine-tuned and will be heard by the judge before the settlement is finalized, most likely in January.
The settlement figure totals $9.8 million to be paid to the creditor committee.
The diocese, parishes and Monroe Foundation are providing approximately $8.3 million of the amount, and another $1.4 million is being paid out by Alaska National Insurance.
“We’re pleased that we have hit this milestone in the reorganization efforts and look forward to working with the creditors committee to make sure the insurance carriers fulfill their responsibilities,” said Diocesan Chancellor Robert Hannon, referring to two insurers who have yet to settle, Catholic Mutual and Travelers.
An attorney for Catholic Mutual in attendance Tuesday attempted to slow the settlement’s momentum, since his client was not involved in the recent settlement discussions and there might be changes that affect them and need their perusal.
His objections were noted, but as James Stang, attorney for the creditors committee said, neither Catholic Mutual nor Travelers had made an effort to join in mediation negotiations with either side for months.
Attorney for the diocese Susan Boswell said the diocese would file an amended disclosure statement and reorganization plan with the court no later than Dec. 11.
Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa said he was pleased on behalf of the 240 clients he represents since litigation with the diocese began seven years ago.
“Unless they be forgotten, (victims) are very interested in seeing this settled. I do not exaggerate when I say that people have died waiting for this.”
Compensation from the $9.8 million will be handled by an appointed neutral party that will evaluate the claims to determine how the money should be divided because of the severity of injury, then make individual awards, Roosa said.
“Some claims may be completely denied,” he said.
Once the settlement is concluded, Roosa said, there might be more litigation ahead for the victims.
The two insurance companies who held policies with the diocese at different times during the past five decades have yet to settle claims and might opt to take the matter to court.
Attorneys and McDonald had high praise for retired Judge William Bettinelli, calling him “tireless” in his role as mediator between the creditors committee and the diocese to bringing both sides to a mutually acceptable conclusion.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests