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Sexual abuse hits Church finances

Payments to victims of sexual abuse by priests in the United States could reach $A2 billion, according to an estimate quoted by the the US Jesuits' magazine America, which says many people are so angry about the scandal that they want to punish the church.

In addition to multi-million dollar law suits, it is thought that some Catholics may now withhold donations to the church. And many insurance companies, who used to offer the Church cover for claims of sexual abuse, are said to be no longer prepared to take the risk.

The reason is the size of the payments being made to victims, either in jury awards or out-of-court settlements.

The Archdiocese of Boston alone is facing costs estimated at $A200m, and new cases are emerging across the country. Last week two American men who say they were abused as teenagers began legal action against the Vatican.

The magazine says estimates of the total payments made since 1985 ranged from $A700m to $A2bn.

"But no-one really knows, because in many cases the court records are sealed," America says in an editorial.

The amounts were often kept secret at the insistence of the insurance companies, who preferred to settle out of court because legal fees could amount to $A1 per case.

The magazine says that following a large jury award in 1985, practically all insurance companies had excluded cover for sexual abuse from their liability policies.

America Magazine


16 Apr 2002