Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Three settle with diocese

Covington pays $750K after sex abuse claims

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Three people who will share in a $750,000 settlement from the Covington Diocese claim they were molested by priests in Maysville.

The three - whose names have not been made public - say they were molested almost 35 years ago at St. Patrick Church in Maysville, 63 miles southeast of Cincinnati on the Ohio River. The man claims abuse by Earl Bierman, and the two women, who are sisters, claim they were abused by David MacPhearson. MacPhearson is no longer a priest.

The group was represented by lawyer Barbara Bonar of Covington, who negotiated the settlement with the Covington Diocese before filing a civil lawsuit. The three will split $750,000 of the $5.17 million payout the diocese announced Saturday to settle 27 claims of abuse from Lexington-area lawsuits. The three Maysville victims never filed suit but settled at the same time the Lexington cases were settled.

A diocesan spokesman says half of the $750,000 will be paid by the church's insurance.

It is the second-largest settlement in Kentucky against the Catholic Church. The largest is the Archdiocese of Louisville's $25.7 million settlement in June with 243 victims.

Bonar said Monday she has several other clients who are considering whether to settle or join the nation's only class-action suit against the Roman Catholic Church, which is working its way through Boone Circuit Court.

"It seems every victim has a unique combination of issues as to how to best approach his or her own healing process," Bonar said. "My clients who settled this weekend were most anxious to resolve their claims so as to begin moving forward in healing their lives and the lives of their families."

This is the first time that sex-abuse allegations have been made against MacPhearson, and no criminal charges were filed. Covington Diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said MacPhearson was defrocked in the 1970s.Repeated attempts to locate MacPhearsonwere unsuccessful.

Bierman, 72, is serving a 20-year prison sentence at the State Reformatory in LaGrange after his conviction in 1993 for molesting six teen-age boys in the 1960s and '70s.

In the only sex abuse case against the Covington Diocese to go to trial, a Campbell County jury in 1995 ordered the diocese to pay $737,000 to a Fort Thomas man abused by Bierman in the 1970s.

Although Bierman has not been defrocked, he cannot function as a priest, and his proper address is "Mr." not "Father." Fitzgerald said.

"He is technically still a priest, but for all intents and purposes, he cannot function as one,'' Fitzgerald said. "He can't say Mass, dress as a priest or present himself as a priest. ... He is suspended permanently, according to the U.S. Bishops Charter adopted in 2002.''

Cindy Schroeder contributed to this report. E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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