Tort Law

San Diego Church Settlement: $198 M

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has agreed to pay $198 million to settle claims of clergy sex abuse by 144 alleged victims.

The settlement announced today is the second-largest in a series of such cases that have erupted throughout the nation since 2002, according to the Associated Press. The Los Angeles Archdiocese settled 508 cases for $660 million in July.

As part of the settlement, the San Diego diocsese also agreed to release documents related to abuse by priests, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Absent this agreement, which is expected to provide details about the claimed transfer of pedophile priests from parish to parish, there would have been no settlement, according to Irwin M. Zalkin, an attorney for 33 claimants.

The settlement is also expected to lead to the dismissal of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed earlier by the diocese.

Zalkin’s comments, as reported by the newspaper, suggested some victims may be elated by the settlement: “This has been a journey for some people, in some cases, 30, 40 years, who have suffered an immense harm that is difficult for anyone to comprehend. This is their day. This is their time. This is their vindication. This is their moment of truth.”

A temporary suspension of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in 2003 by the state of California allowed most of the claims to be brought, the newspaper notes.

However, several individuals who apparently will be included in the settlement expressed relief that the case is over but anger that their claims were not resolved earlier, both the newspaper and the news service report. “They knew all along that I’d been molested, so to put me through this is unconscionable,” said Michael Bang of Atlanta, according to AP.

Bishop Robert Brom said in a press release that the church sought to settle claims fairly while maintaining church programs. He repeatedly apologized to victims at a news conference, saying, at one point, “I’m very, very sorry for the suffering we have caused them and I pray they will walk with God for a renewed life.”

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