Lori: Diocese May Settle Dozens of Abuse Claims

The Day [Stamford CT]
Downloaded June 8, 2003

Stamford (AP) - The bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport said Saturday he hopes the diocese settles this year dozens of legal claims related to pedophile allegations against priests.

"Right now we are kind of midstream in the process," Bishop William Lori said, the Connecticut Post reported in editions prepared for Sunday.

Lori said the diocese expects to reach a "comprehensive global settlement." He did not elaborate.

In October 2002, diocese officials acknowledged receiving more than a dozen complaints about alleged abuse by priests in the diocese since the 1970s.

U.S. Magistrate William Garfinkel, who presided over settlement negotiations, mediated in March 2001 a $15 million settlement between the diocese and 24 people who claimed to have been molested as children by priests.

Since the early 1990s 20 priests in the diocese have been suspended for abusing children.

A "Safe Environment" initiative unveiled at a news conference at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford on Saturday establishes an Office of Safe Environments, replaces a sexual misconduct policy with a new policy and sets a sexual harassment policy. The initiative requires all clergy, employees and volunteers to undergo background checks.

The diocese in September also will begin awareness training to prevent sexual abuse through the Virtus Program of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.

"Our goal is straightforward, to ensure to the best of our ability a safe environment in our parishes, schools and other ministries," Lori said.

Complaints of sexual abuse by priests will continue to be presented to the diocese's 11-member sexual misconduct review board for action that conforms with polices drafted by U.S. bishops last year, Lori said.


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