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Boston Archdiocese suspends abuse settlement to raise funds to pay

Faced with hundreds of potential litigants, Boston's Roman Catholic archdiocese is contemplating mortgaging or even selling its headquarters to pay the rising toll of its priest abuse scandal.

Lawyers and alleged victims have called on the archdiocese to sell or mortgage the property since it backed out of a settlement with 86 plaintiffs in a civil suit against defrocked priest John Geoghan.

The archdiocese's Finance Council on Friday rejected the settlement because of a concern about the growing number of victims and the church's diminishing resources. The deal would have paid plaintiffs between $A30 million and $A60 million.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday, told parishioners that the number of additional sexual abuse claims against priests and the archdiocese has grown to 150. Hundreds more have contacted attorneys.

Law, whose car was chased out of the church parking lot by angry protesters after Mass, said he would seek to reach an "equitable solution" in coming weeks.

The archdiocese's chief financial officer, Chancellor David Smith, did not rule out a sale of the 16-acre chancery Sunday. He said it will take months to determine how much will be needed to finance a settlement fund. Replacing 120,000 square feet of office and residence space for less than the sale price would be difficult, he said. But Law wouldn't mind living in a more practical setting, he added.

During the negotiations, Smith said, the archdiocese "clearly misjudged" how many victims had not yet filed suit. At least 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse have come forward since January, according to published reports.

Statement of David W. Smith, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Boston May 3, 2002
Archdiocese of Boston


7 May 2002