Church Abuse Victims Fighting to Remain Anonymous

July 27, 2006

BURLINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Lawyers for victims of a class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington are fighting a judge's order to have the victims' names turned over to prosecutors.

The victims reached an $84 million settlement with the Covington Diocese in January. The settlement covers 361 victims who claim they were abused over a period of 50 years by priests in a diocese that once included 57 counties across a large swath of Kentucky.

Lawyers for the victims were expected to appear in court on Boone Circuit Court on Thursday to contest an order filed by Special Judge John Potter.

In the order Potter wrote that victims had to turn over their names as well as details of the abuse they suffered to authorities in accordance with state law. The names of the victims won't be revealed unless it is deemed necessary, Porter wrote.

Attorney Stan Chesley claims the state law does not apply because it doesn't cover adults who come forward to report abuse they suffered during childhood.

"This is a civil case," Chesley wrote in a motion to the court. "It is not a criminal prosecution."

Dr. Rena Kay, a psychiatrist who has treated some of the church abuse victims, wrote in a motion that requiring the victims to release their names amounted to "betrayal" by the court.

Chesley said hundreds of radio, newspaper and television advertisements seeking victims promised them anonymity if they came forward.

Some of the victims have already started the process of collecting their portion of the settlement.

The victims will receive varying amounts, ranging from $5,000 to $1 million based on the severity and duration of the abuse they suffered. Some money will also be set aside to pay for counseling for abuse victims.

Those in the highest category of abuse will be eligible to apply to a special fund for extraordinary claims. Two special masters appointed by the court will oversee payments to the victims.

The Boone County court received confidential forms from 382 people saying they were abused by a priest or other employee of the Covington Diocese. Twenty-one of those claims were rejected, but the rest from that group will be able to submit claims.

The class-action settlement comes on top of 58 cases settled by the diocese with other people who had claims of abuse. The diocese paid $10.8 million to settle those cases, Potter wrote.

Covington is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The Covington diocese now spans 14 counties and has 89,000 parishioners. The lawsuit also covers some Kentucky counties that were part of the diocese until 1988, when a new diocese in Lexington formed.


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