Lawyers Agree to Moratorium on Clergy Abuse Trial Preparations

The Associated Press, carried in Springfield Union-News [Boston MA]
January 25, 2003

BOSTON (AP) -- Many of the alleged sexual abuse victims suing the Archdiocese of Boston have agreed to a a 90-day moratorium halting pretrial preparations while settlement talks progress.

But Mitchell Garabedian, who represents about 110 people with claims against the church, is not among those taking part in the moratorium, he told The Boston Globe.

"I do not hold out much hope for settling these cases. I am continuing to litigate," Garabedian said. He would not discuss his reasons for not taking part.

The moratorium was first proposed by Bishop Richard Lennon shortly after he became apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, following Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation. At the time, Garabedian said "I simply don't trust the leaders of the Archdiocese of Boston."

In the background is the possibility that the Archdiocese of Boston could seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move that would result in a single global settlement between the archdiocese and the alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The Globe reported that according to one archdiocesan adviser who asked to remain anonymous, the Vatican gave conditional permission for a bankruptcy filing just before Law resigned on Dec. 13.

The adviser and several others familiar with the matter said U.S. cardinals and bishops objected, expressing concerns that such a filing would lead to a serious drop in donations nationwide, damage the church's reputation and create a precedent by opening the church's financial records to public scrutiny.

But since then, the adviser said, most of the cardinals and bishops who objected to the filing have quietly withdrawn their objections, and Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit has been studying the issue.

The Globe reported that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and spokesmen for Maida refused to comment.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, also declined to comment. He said the archdiocese still considers bankruptcy an option but has not yet decided whether to employ it.

The Globe said according to lawyers involved in negotiations, the archdiocese is facing initial legal demands for $150 million from the first 390 alleged victims. Another 110 claims by alleged victims have yet to be filed.

To fund those claims, the archdiocese has determined that insurance carriers are liable for an estimated $60 million, although it is not certain that insurers will agree to pay.

Aside from the moratorium two lawsuits, both alleging rapes by the Rev. Paul Shanley, are continuing to trial, as the pretrial preparations for those cases are all but complete

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