February 16, 2005

Accusers in clergy abuse speak out


Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Star-Ledger Staff
As a group, they will receive $5 million to settle their claims that Catholic clergy sexually abused them. But yesterday, several of the 27 plaintiffs said the money does little to relieve their bitterness and disillusionment toward the Paterson Diocese.

"It's a lot of money, but the only thing that can solve my problem is if they build a time machine and let me go back to 12 years old and discover sexual intimacy on my own terms, not have it forced on me by a pedophile that they employed," said Buddy Cotton, 42, one of 21 plaintiffs who accused former priest James Hanley of sexually abusing them when they were children. Five other clergy members were accused in the lawsuit.

Cotton was among a half-dozen plaintiffs who appeared at a news conference in Morristown yesterday to discuss the settlement, which was reached last month and first reported last week.

Members of the group said they are upset the settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing by the diocese or a chance to see the accused priests' personnel files. They also complained the church used hard-nosed legal tactics until November. The lawsuit was filed a little more than a year ago.

In November, Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson, sitting in Morristown, ruled that the diocese could not automatically use the statute of limitations to avoid paying damages. It was the judge's ruling, not the church's compassion, that led to the final settlement, several of the plaintiffs said.

Posted by kshaw at February 16, 2005 04:05 AM