Friday, November 21, 2003

Fund for victims has a big catch



By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Archdiocese of Cincinnati officials say the creation of a $3 million compensation fund is an attempt to provide some financial relief for the victims of sexual abuse.

But the lawyers of those victims say the church - not the victims - will be the biggest beneficiary.

The fund was announced Thursday as part of a comprehensive settlement between the archdiocese and Hamilton County prosecutors.

MORE COVERAGE
Stories:
Archdiocese found guilty of failing to report abuse
Mike Allen's statement on plea agreement
Despite plea, few see need for bishop's exit
Some of faithful content with plea
Ask a question about the Archdiocese's plea
Video:
WCPO video of court proceedings
Opinion:
Archdiocese's plea deal
Wells: It took too long
Church officials agreed to pay up to $3 million into a fund that will be administered by a panel consisting of representatives of the church and the prosecutor's office and a person agreed to by both.

Beginning early next year, victims of abuse will have six months to apply for a share of the $3 million.

Compensation will be available to victims regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

"No amount of money can take away the pain and suffering of those who have been injured by sexual abuse as children," Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said Thursday.

"But I hope that the fund can bring a measure of closure and reconciliation to the victims of child abuse by agents of the archdiocese."

Lawyers for the victims said the fund looks to them like an attempt to discourage the filing of new lawsuits and to force those who have filed suits to drop pending claims.

The reason, they say, is that anyone who applies to the tribunal for relief must agree not to sue for additional damages.

"It seems to be a kind of squeeze play," said Konrad Kircher, a Mason lawyer representing 67 people who say they were abused. "They are unilaterally trying to decide what these victims are entitled to."

The fund is modeled on compensation funds that typically result from large, class-action lawsuits. In those cases, the amount in the fund is determined either by a jury or as part of a settlement.

In this case, however, the archdiocese has created the fund on its own, setting the amount available and determining who is eligible.

And because victims have only six months to decide whether they want to apply, they won't have time to take their chances with a lawsuit and still maintain their eligibility.

"Victims have an option: They can pursue civil cases if they wish, or they can participate in the victims' assistance fund," said archdiocese lawyer Mark VanderLaan. "They cannot do both."

Barbara Bonar, another lawyer who represents alleged victims, said she's encouraged the archdiocese is willing to pay compensation. But she thinks church officials are more interested in encouraging people to drop their lawsuits than they are in paying them their due.

"They're trying to tell victims, 'Take what we're going to give you, or we're going to fight you to the mat in court,' " Bonar said.




ARCHDIOCESE PLEA DEAL
Archdiocese found guilty of failing to report abuse
Mike Allen's statement on plea agreement
Despite plea, few see need for bishop's exit
Some of faithful content with plea
Fund for victims has a big catch
Ask a question about the Archdiocese's plea

TOP STORIES
Jazz fans tune in to Mama
Con man gets 23 years
Man dies crossing Ohio Pike

IN THE TRISTATE
Trustees delay parking change
Batavia schools tighten belts
Alum endows Miami U. faculty post in finance
Bus driver charged in death of pedestrian
Supporters rally behind county plan for future
City turns over Empire fiasco documents to FBI
Lakota schools warn of cuts
Photo brings out splendor of lit-up river, Tall Stacks
Dancers practice for big parade
Regional Report
Firm gets rights to Children's heart drug
West asks to be own lawyer

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Downs: Got $100,000 that's burning a hole in your pocket?
Howard; Good Things Happening

OBITUARIES
Ronald Fein was court magistrate
Catherine C. Borchers gave time to children
Kentucky Obituaries

OHIO
Legislative counsel charged in 'naked photographer' case
Taft threatens to veto bill allowing concealed guns
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Anime convention may draw 1,000 to N.Ky.
Three die when plane crashes near college
African singers are just kids, too
Diocese wants judge removed
Traffic study under review in Kenton Co.
Kentucky to do