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Orange County Register
Monday, October 25, 2004

The diocese should settle

Last month, the Diocese of Orange quietly announced that it had paid
$500,000 to settle a lawsuit against Msgr. Daniel Murray of Our Lady of
Mount Carmel Church in Newport Beach, who was accused of molesting a
young boy in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the diocese has been far less
eager to settle the many other priest-abuse lawsuits that have been
filed against the diocese, despite pledges by Bishop Tod Brown to
settle the matters quickly.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses - facing scores of
lawsuits by alleged sexual- abuse victims - approached plaintiffs'
attorneys and asked to negotiate a settlement to avoid litigation. The
church claimed to want to settle matters quickly and let victims get on
with their lives, but instead it has stonewalled and delayed.

It has been two years and little has happened. Talks broke down during
the summer and negotiations have been at a virtual standstill. Attorney
John Manly, who represents 30 sexual-abuse victims, said the church has
made no individual offers and has balked at providing necessary
personnel information about accused priests.

It is apparent that the church does not want to settle the cases,
certainly not if the settlements mean releasing documents that show the
level of culpability by church officials in tolerating and covering up
for priests who raped teen-agers and children.

The drawn-out process is revict- imizing sexual-abuse victims and is
leaving current parishioners vulnerable to further abuse. The situation
is troubling, given the words of healing, openness and transparency
promised by Bishop Brown and other diocesan leadership.

It's time to settle the cases or move forward to litigation. It's time
for discovery, to force church officials to testify about what they
knew and when they knew it. It's time to open personnel files of those
credibly accused or who admitted to having molested children. It's not
a witch hunt, but a process of transparency, as promised.

If the church won't open its records and settle the cases, then there's
no choice but for litigation to begin. It's unconscionable to let this
process drag on for years, depriving victims of closure and of
financial settlements appropriate to the suffering they have endured.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests