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Spotlight Report

Victims hope to 'put a face' on abuse numbers

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 9/5/2003

Two alleged victims who will meet with Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley at a special settlement negotiation tomorrow morning said yesterday that they intend to tell him how intensely they have suffered from sexual abuse by priests, in an effort, as one put it, "to put a face to the numbers that are being thrown around."

Alleged abuse victims John King and David Carney said at a press conference that they hope their participation can help force an agreement between lawyers for the Archdiocese of Boston and attorneys representing more than 550 fellow plaintiffs. The sides are still at least $25 million apart.

Still, they insist that their primary goal is emotional healing, not financial gain.

"I don't want to be like Judas Iscariot, take my 30 pieces of silver and then go home and hang myself," said King, a 40-year-old Methuen resident who said he was sexually abused by the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, who is now imprisoned on an unrelated rape conviction. "That's not my goal. My goal is to find some relief and move forward."

O'Malley agreed on Wednesday to participate in tomorrow's negotiating session and meet with a group of 10 or so plaintiffs. He pledged his personal involvement after an intense, lengthy bargaining session failed to produce a settlement between the archdiocese and lawyers for alleged victims.

A spokesman for the archdiocese, the Rev. Christopher Coyne, said yesterday that O'Malley believes that his direct involvement may help push the talks to a successful conclusion.

"Archbishop O'Malley has been committed to a settlement all along, and he obviously thinks that this is the moment for him to step in and make sure that it works," Coyne said.

O'Malley believes it is important for plaintiffs to participate in the bargaining session, Coyne said, because "it is part of his pastoral mission."

"He has always been willing to listen," Coyne said.

The lawyer for King and Carney, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, said he believes that having plaintiffs at tomorrow's session will be an "effective tool" to keep the participants from getting too hung up on legal technicalities and dollar figures.

"These individual victims are people, they're not numbers, they feel pain," said Garabedian, who is one of eight lawyers on a steering committee that is negotiating on behalf of more than 40 attorneys representing more than 550 victims. "This is not the supermarket, where you go and take a number from the machine and they call your number and serve you."

Carney, 37, a union laborer who alleges that he was abused by Monsignor Frederick Ryan when he was a 15-year-old student at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, where Ryan was a resident chaplain, said he is "excited" to meet with O'Malley.

"It's almost like having a day in court with him," Carney said. "We'll be able to put a face to the numbers they keep putting out there."

Both men and their lawyer insisted yesterday that fairness and healing, not money, will be the focus of tomorrow's talks.

"Money is just a symbol in these cases," Garabedian said. "It's a symbol that the church admits that it did something wrong. It helps the victim regain some sort of dignity, some sort of self-esteem, and some sort of understanding that, `Hey, it wasn't my fault.' "

"There isn't enough money in the world to repair these shredded souls," he said. "But you have to start somewhere."

Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents more than 260 people with claims against the archdiocese, declined to comment on tomorrow's session or on the identities of the other plaintiffs who will meet with O'Malley.

The Globe reported two weeks ago that O'Malley had raised the church's settlement offer from $55 million to $65 million. That put the sides at least $25 million apart, given that a week earlier a steering committee of lawyers representing the plaintiffs told the archdiocese that they believed the claims were worth between $90 million and $120 million.

People involved in the talks have said that the plaintiffs' lawyers reached their figures by analyzing each of the more than 500 claims and coming up with a range of compensation for each victim, based on the abuse suffered and on amounts awarded in similar cases, including last year's $10 million settlement between the archdiocese and 86 victims of the Rev. John J. Geoghan.


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