|By Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But in the end, neither side could declare victory.
The plaintiffs won no massive payout or declaration from the jury that the diocese had failed miserably to protect children.
By the same count, the diocese wasn't cleared of wrongdoing, nor was it shielded from future litigation.
"It may sound like it was a good financial deal for both sides. ... But it's also really sad," said
The settlement covered 32 lawsuits filed from
In a rare move, the plaintiffs agreed to share the settlement with everyone who had filed a lawsuit -- even those whose cases had been dismissed.
"We've reached the right result because now each and every one of those victims of sexual abuse who filed their lawsuits will receive some compensation," said
Tuesday's settlement wasn't the first that the diocese resolved in one lump sum. In 2008, the diocese announced a
Unlike the 2008 settlement, Randles said, the agreement Tuesday did not include any non-monetary provisions, such as a written apology from Bishop
"We asked for some policy changes," she said, "but they wouldn't consider anything this time."
Trials in cases alleging sexual abuse by clergy are rare. Of the thousands of such civil suits filed in
"One reason is the publicity and not wanting to reveal, in public, things that will make a number of people uncomfortable, including the litigants," said
What's more, he said, there is no way to know for sure what a jury will decide.
"You always have to wonder if it goes to a jury, are you going to win the case or not?" he said. "They just don't know until the jury comes in with a verdict one way or other, and sometimes it's better to split the difference."
Sharing the damages among all the plaintiffs, Tobias said, is unusual.
"When you have a group of people, it's just harder because people have different goals on why they would even decide to litigate," he said. "And it's especially hard in this context. For some, it's not about the money. It's vindication for the harm."
Others, he said, just want to be able to tell their stories.
"That's real important in these kinds of cases for some people," he said.
Defending sexual abuse lawsuits puts a diocese in a bizarre situation, said Cafardi, a former chairman of the
"There's a very fine line," he said. "We know we've had phony victims in some cases, and a diocese has a right to try and ferret out who those are.
"But it puts the diocese in an awkward position. You don't want to use the same methods with somebody who in fact has been abused because when you do that, in a way, you're perpetuating the abuse. You're retraumatizing them."
Going up against current or former church members in court can be extremely sensitive, he said.
"To be fair to the church, these are charitable assets," Cafardi said. "They do need to protect them. On the other hand, if it's a real victim who in fact the priest has abused, you need to make that right as well."
He said it was wise for the diocese to settle the lawsuits in one large batch.
"It's smart because an average of
In its announcement of the settlement, the diocese said that a large portion would be covered by insurers.
"At some point, much of this detail will be included in the annual report of the diocesan insurance operation," he said in an email. "I'm unable to provide detail, in part, because all of the pieces are not yet clear."
While some wonder whether Tuesday's settlement will leave the diocese more vulnerable to future lawsuits, Cafardi wasn't so sure.
"It's not that big a settlement," he said. "My experience has been that one settlement doesn't necessarily lead to another."
Couzens spoke Friday at a news conference on the steps of the
"It's OK to be Catholic," he said. "But our children today need to know that they can go to confession and they can serve Mass and they can do those things without being afraid that a priest is going to touch them."
The settlement, Couzens said, is "a little bit of vindication, it's retribution. And it's unfortunate because the general public would think that our motivation, that all victims' motivation, is for money. But it's just the reverse. It's about money for them because they think that they can pay these victims off and then they keep shut. ... I'm not going to shut up."
Though the cases are now settled, Tate said, "by no means is this the end."
"This is not about the money," he said. "It's about the actions of the diocese. Our stories are real. Now the diocese needs to stand up and show everyone how they're going to handle any similar situations in the future."
In addition to the late Monsignor
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