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Archdiocese Pays Nearly $1.7 Million in Settlements

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The Archdiocese of St. Louis has spent nearly $1.7 million dollars to victims of clergy sex abuse since January of last year.

The settlements are part of a mediation process that involves members of an archdiocese committee.

The 31 cases resolved since Janurary 2004 cost a total of nearly 2.4 million dollars. An insurance carrier covered almost a third.

Archdiocese spokesman Tony Huenneke says most of the money will be used to help heal victims.

"We want to make sure that people are made whole again, that people are getting the therapy that they need, getting the counseling they need, so that's primarily what these moneys are put toward," Huenneke said.

But David Clohessy, the president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says the settlements save the archdiocese from public trials and large jury awards.

"These settlements are the result of a business decision on the part of Catholic church officials who realize it's a lot cheaper to settle out of court than to risk long, expensive public trials and the chance that juries might award far more money," Clohessy said.

Last month the archdiocese settled eight cases for more than $267,000. The cases involved four archdiocesan priests, a priest from a religious order, and a priest who lived in St. Louis.

Clohessy says it's the first settlement for three of the accused: Father Jospeh Lessard, Father Richard Lause, and defrocked priest Donald Straub. Father Romano Ferraro already is serving a life sentence for molesting a boy in Massachusetts and the other two accused,Robert Yim and Michael McGrath, were recently defrocked.

Clohessy is encouraging victims to seek criminal charges.

The victims' advocate also wants the archdiocese to release more information about how it's paying for the settlements.

Huenneke says none of the money comes from church donations.

"Moneys that are donated to parishes by parishioners or any Catholic in the archdiocese that makes a donation to the annual Catholic Appeal, which is our annual fundraising campaign, none of those moneys are ever used for settlements," he said.

Huenneke says settlement money has come from the Archdiocese's administrative fund and sometimes from the sale of undeveloped property.

He says the archdiocese has been transparent about its finances and publishes an annual fiscal report.


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