This afternoon was so busy, I was letting the machine get the phone, and I missed a call from the Bishop giving me a heads-up on the following news, which I will now share with you:
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston
announced Friday it will settle child sex abuse claims in South
Carolina, designating as much as $12 million for damages.
is my fervent hope that this settlement will allow us, as the Catholic
community of faith in South Carolina, to bring closure to an ugly
period in our history," Bishop Robert Baker said.
class-action settlement has been given initial approval by a state
judge, said Larry Richter, an attorney for four victims whose claims
were settled last summer.
Peter Shahid Jr., an attorney
representing the diocese, said the church knows of at least eight other
victims although others may come forward.
Under the settlement, abuse victims could get anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 while spouses and parents would receive $20,000.
1950, there have been 50 abuse claims involving 28 clergy or others
diocesan employees settled for almost $3 million, Shahid said. Those
claims were not apart of the new settlement.
Richter, himself a Roman Catholic, said it is unclear how many other victims may come forward.
you find in this area is people can’t just be molested and the next day
step up to the plate and say ‘I’m a victim,’" he said. "It’s often
after a very painful time in life."
Baker said in a letter
published in the diocesan newspaper on Friday that he deeply regrets
"the anguish of any individual who has suffered the scourge of
childhood abuse and I am firmly committed to a just resolution of any
instance in which a person who holds the responsibility of a protector
has become a predator."
The settlement allows compensation for sexual abuse victims born before August 30, 1980, and their spouses and parents.
attorneys said the 1980 date was negotiated generally to assure the
settlement would cover victims who otherwise could not sue because the
statute of limitations would have expired.
The agreement sets up an initial pool of $5 million. If $4 million of that is paid, a second pool of $7 million will be added.
said they arrived at the $12 million figure by reviewing settlements
throughout the country. An arbitrator will validate claims and
determine the amount of compensation, according to the statement.
The diocese said it was encouraging anyone who was a victim to contact Richter.
Barker, chief financial officer for the diocese, said the money would
come from insurance, interest on investments and, if needed, selling
"There have been dioceses that have declared
bankruptcy," Shahid said. "The faithful should understand … we have
capped our liability at $12 million. Those (other) dioceses were faced
with huge debts as a result of claims and were forced into bankruptcy."
officials in South Carolina have said the incidence of child abuse has
been lower here than the national average during the past half century.
released by the church three years ago show that between 1950 and 2002
about 4 percent of all American Catholic clerics were accused of abuse
compared with 2.7 percent of the clergy in South Carolina.
former South Carolina priest who pleaded guilty last year to assault
and battery of a high and aggravated nature in the sexual abuse of two
boys 30 years ago was the seventh former priest, coach or teacher in
the diocese to plead guilty to abuse charges.
There are about
158,000 Catholics in South Carolina, almost four percent of the state
population, according to the diocesan Web site.
A final hearing on the settlement will be held in early March.