July 10, 2005

Court's ruling looms large on clergy abuse payouts

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 9, 2005

Two cities separated by a river symbolize the potential impact of a soon-to-be-released state Supreme Court decision on the ability of people sexually abused as minors by clergy to sue churches.

On the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, a judge last week gave preliminary approval to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit in the Covington Diocese that could reach a national-record $120 million for clergy sexual abuse.

Ad campaigns soon will reach out to people victimized in the diocese, which until 1988 covered the eastern half of the state. The diocese is moving its offices from a building on a 300-acre site that it might sell.

On the river's Ohio side, a $3.2 million compensation fund was distributed this year by the Cincinnati Archdiocese to 117 people who said priests sexually abused them. Upset by the fund's size, some victims declined to participate.

The fund - which ended up equal to about $27,300 per victim - was created in exchange for the county prosecutor dropping a criminal investigation. The archdiocese was fined $10,000.

Since the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin Supreme Court rulings have virtually halted lawsuits here by clergy abuse victims. Oral arguments were heard this year on a case challenging those rulings, and the court is expected to rule this month.

Posted by kshaw at July 10, 2005 08:35 AM