October 12, 2005

Diocesan conflicts a barrier to large-scale settlements for victims

San Luis Obispo Tribune

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - (KRT) - John Kirker has not held a job in over two years. The 34-year-old Internet software developer says he has trouble focusing on work. His life has been put on hold since he filed a lawsuit two years ago against the Milwaukee Archdiocese, alleging childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest.

While some dioceses have settled some cases, hundreds of sexual abuse victims like Kirker have been left in the lurch as the Roman Catholic Church and its insurance carriers argue over the extent of coverage. Conflicts in a number of dioceses have emerged as a barrier to large-scale settlements.

The church has so far paid out an estimated $1 billion on cases dating back decades. With hundreds of abuse lawsuits still not settled, the church's liability could double or triple, according to Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay reform group. The potential costs of future settlements already have forced three U.S. dioceses into bankruptcy.

In most cases, the issue of who will pay - and how much - has stalled settlement efforts. In one diocese, the church caused a rift by promising to settle without consulting its insurance carriers. There are also cases of missing policies dating back decades and arguments over whether policies cover priests who the church knew were suspected molesters.

Posted by kshaw at October 12, 2005 07:23 AM