Friday, September 3, 2004

Archdiocese receives 134 claims for clergy abuse funds



By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

More than 130 people are seeking payment from a $3 million fund that was created last year to compensate victims of clergy abuse in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Officials overseeing the fund announced the total Thursday, a day after the Sept. 1 deadline for filing claims.

The archdiocese established the fund last year as part of a settlement that resolved a criminal investigation into the church's handling of sexual abuse allegations involving priests.

Victims rights groups have criticized the fund as an attempt by the church to impose a financial settlement on victims.

But church officials say the fund is a fair way to provide at least some compensation to victims who might otherwise receive nothing, either because they cannot prove their claims in court or because too much time has passed to file a lawsuit.

To seek compensation, victims must agree not to sue the archdiocese or to drop any lawsuits against the church.

Matthew Garretson, who administers the fund, said he expected the late rush because many people were waiting to decide whether they were better off suing the archdiocese for damages or seeking compensation through the fund.

He said he had received 134 claims by the deadline. But the final total could go down once those claims are examined and basic facts - such as whether the priest served at the time and place listed in the complaint - are verified.

Garretson said the next steps are to evaluate all the claims, investigate the allegations and present a report to the independent three-member tribunal that will make the final decision on how much money each victim gets.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com



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