Saturday, February 21, 2004

Diocese adds abuse claims

Update reveals extra $10 million spent, 47 more cases

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Nearly 50 more people were abused by priests in the Covington Diocese than the church previously reported and an additional $10 million was spent to settle abuse claims.

Victims: 205 since 1950. All of those cases occurred before 1990. Most were not reported until the 1990s. Seventy-six have been reported since 2000.
Money spent: $14.3 million on settling sex-abuse claims since 1989. Includes legal fees, counseling fees and settlements. Insurance covered $9.4 million. The remaining $4.9 million came from accumulated investment income.
Offenders: 35, or 9.6 percent, of the diocese's 364 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct. Of the 35, 16 are dead, 14 are permanently removed from active ministry and five are defrocked.
Source: Messenger, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Covington.
The information was disclosed in the Covington Diocese newspaper mailed Friday to 27,000 families in 14 counties. The update is the first from the diocese to its parishioners since August.

"It's been six months since our initial of release of data," Bishop Roger J. Foys said in a statement Friday. "I made a pledge to keep the faithful of the diocese informed. Updating these figures at this time is part of that pledge."

The new report says 35, or 9.6 percent, of the diocesan priests abused 205 victims since 1950. That's an increase of 47 reported victims since the last report. Lawyers in a class-action lawsuit against the Covington Diocese claim the numbers are higher.

The diocese spent $14.3 million settling claims - $4.9 million from its own coffers and $9.4 million paid by insurance companies.

None of the money used to settle claims came from parish assessments, from the sale of real estate or from the diocesan annual appeal, church attorneys say.

The updated number came a week before a national survey of sex abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests is scheduled to be released. A watchdog panel formed by American bishops is overseeing the survey, which researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York are doing it.

While information relating to individual dioceses will not be made public as part of the national report, some bishops, including Foys, have shared it with parishioners. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is expected to release a similar report to parishioners by Friday.

"I think it's clear from Covington's pronouncement that they underestimated (the number of victims) when they first made their announcement," said Bob Steinberg, a lawyer in a class-action sex abuse case against the Diocese of Covington. "It was 158 then. Now it's over 200. We have always estimated that the number of victims was over 500 and we still feel that way."

When he appeared in court with co-counsel Stan Chesley two weeks ago, Steinberg told the judge he had the names and addresses of 110 victims. He said attorneys for the class-action victims believe 57 priests or other officials in the church victimized people - a greater number than the diocese claims.

Steinberg would not say whether the diocese is doing enough to help sexual abuse victims.

"Our goal is to get compensation for all the victims," Steinberg said. "It is not to attack the bishop or the diocese."

Cindy Schroeder contributed.


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