- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
At least 300 civil lawsuits charging clerical sex abuse have been filed in 16 states since January, when the case of a pedophile priest in Boston spurred claims against Roman Catholic dioceses across America, a nationwide review by the Associated Press found.
Lawyers say the rush of litigation is truly dramatic for such a brief time, and that several hundred more cases are being informally mediated between dioceses and accusers.
That ensures American bishops will remain under enormous legal and financial pressure from the scandal even after they overhaul their policy in a meeting starting Thursday.
"It's off the charts," said Pat Schiltz, a Minnesota lawyer who has defended dioceses against hundreds of abuse claims.
Daniel Holden, attorney for the Orange County, Calif., Diocese, said it would take a couple of years for these cases alone to be resolved, and more certainly will be filed in the coming months.
New York lawyer Michael Dowd said he was preparing about 60 sex-abuse claims against dioceses in his area.
Chicago Cardinal Francis George may sell the mansion where the city's archbishops have lived for more than a century, acknowledging some of the proceeds could be used to pay legal fees in abuse cases.
Almost 250 of the nation's more than 46,000 Roman Catholic priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal began in January.
Beyond the toll in loss of staff and credibility, the financial cost of these cases has never been fully calculated. Estimates of what the church has paid out since the first major scandals broke in the 1980s range from about $300 million to $1 billion.
AP reporters across the country interviewed lawyers and reviewed court documents last week to count the number of abuse lawsuits across the nation. The tally does not include a handful of lawsuits against lay church workers.
Dioceses in Kentucky face the most lawsuits 122 with more than a third involving claims against one priest, the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who denies any wrongdoing. Three other suits cite Bishop Kendrick Williams of Lexington for actions while he was a Louisville priest. He also has denied any wrongdoing.
The bulk of the remaining claims were concentrated in states hardest-hit by the scandal.
At least 73 suits have been filed in Massachusetts, where some of the most notorious abuse cases involving former priest John Geoghan and the Rev. Paul Shanley have been winding through the courts. Geoghan, whose case sparked the crisis, was convicted this year of fondling one boy, though more than 130 people have accused him of molesting them.
Another 41 claims have been made in New Hampshire, where Bishop John McCormack has been under scrutiny for his former role in supervising accused priests in Boston and for his response to abuse claims when he became head of the Manchester Diocese.


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