Bishops Await Boston Resolution
Settlement Offers Due This Week in Sex Abuse Allegations [Boston MA]
June 22, 2003

BOSTON -- Roman Catholic bishops across the nation are eagerly awaiting resolution to lawsuits against the Boston Archdiocese, which plans to make settlement offers this week to hundreds of alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.

"Without a doubt the resolution of the cases there, and the healing process -- the more quickly it can be resolved the better for that local church, but let's face it, for the church of the United States," Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a news conference following the conclusion of the bishops' semiannual meeting Saturday in St. Louis.

"The bishops of the United States would concur that, to bring healing, that particular thorny issue needs resolution," Gregory continued.

Bishop Richard G. Lennon, interim head of the Boston Archdiocese, said he is hopeful that an offer can be made this week to plaintiffs' attorneys.

Attorneys for about 400 people with claims against the archdiocese agreed late last month to halt litigation while plaintiffs and church lawyers discuss a settlement. The 30-day extension came after an earlier 90-day moratorium lapsed without a resolution.

Resolving Boston's problems is important symbolically, bishops say, because Boston is at the epicenter of the abuse scandal. It erupted in January 2002, when the Boston Globe reported that church leaders shuffled pedophile priest John Geoghan from parish to parish despite knowledge of abuse allegations against him.

Lennon was named as interim head of the archdiocese last December after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in the wake of the scandal. More than 500 sex abuse lawsuits are still pending against the archdiocese, which faces the prospect of either a multimillion settlement or a costly legal battle.

Last June, the archdiocese cited a weak economy as it cut its budget by a third, cutting 15 positions as well as aid to parishes, schools and hospitals.


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