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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese misses deadline to settle with alleged abuse victims

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 6/27/2003

Faced with continuing difficulty negotiating an agreement with its insurance carriers, officials at the Archdiocese of Boston confirmed yesterday that they would not fulfill Bishop Richard G. Lennon's pledge that a settlement offer would be extended by today to hundreds of alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse suing the church in civil court.

The announcement enraged alleged abuse victims, who called it proof that church officials still do not comprehend or appreciate their pain. Lawyers for plaintiffs, meanwhile, turned down a request from the archdiocese to extend a 30-day moratorium on litigation that expires today.

''The archdiocese just continues to toy with the emotions of the victims,'' said Gary Bergeron of Lowell, who is suing over abuse he says he suffered at the hands of the Rev. Joseph Birmingham. ''How long am I going to let the archdiocese tell me that what is happening to me isn't important, that I'm not important, and that my family isn't important?''

Today marks the end of the fourth voluntary stoppage of litigation in about 400 of the 500 civil claims brought against the archdiocese by alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse. Lawyers for the plaintiffs agreed to the most recent 30-day stand down after a personal appeal from Lennon, who asked for more time to reach a settlement after a 90-day moratorium expired last month.

Lennon, the interim head of the archdiocese who took over after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, raised expectations for a settlement last week at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in St. Louis when he said he believed church officials would be able to make a settlement offer by the end of this week.

Yesterday, however, the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, released a statement saying that ''issues remain that still need to be resolved with the insurance carriers for the Archdiocese and we are, at this time, unable to make the hoped-for offer.''

Coyne said the church continues ''to keep the lines of communication open . . . in order to bring about a fair, just, and equitable resolution to these cases.'' Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney has scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning. Lawyers for plaintiffs said that litigation will resume on Monday.

''We have nothing to evaluate and no choice but to reject their request (for more time),'' said Robert A. Sherman, an attorney with the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents more than 200 alleged victims suing the archdiocese. ''We told them a dozen times that (today) was a hard deadline. How do we go back to our clients now and say `We have nothing for you'?''

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 6/27/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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