- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2005

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A proposed multimillion-dollar priest sexual-abuse settlement would impose staggering costs on the Catholic diocese here, but many parishioners at Mass yesterday said they understood the need to compensate victims of decades of abuse.

Char Allen, attending Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, said victims deserve to be compensated by the diocese because the priests involved used the diocese to cover their activities, she said.

“I can’t imagine going through that, being a victim of your own faith,” Miss Allen said.

The Diocese of Covington announced Friday it was pledging $120 million, the nation’s largest such settlement, to end a two-year-old class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 100 purported victims of sexual abuse by priests. The settlement still needs approval by a judge.

The lawsuit accuses the diocese, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, of a 50-year cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and others.

The church said the settlement fund would consist of $80 million from insurance and $40 million from church real estate and investments.

“If we have to give up the property … which is materialism, then that’s what we have to do,” Jack Gartner said as he left the basilica. “You do bad things and suffer the consequences.”

“It’s hard for me to imagine that money can justify or satisfy the individuals who have endured this kind of abuse.”

During Mass, the Rev. William F. Cleves asked for forgiveness for “the sins of the past against the innocent.”

Victims will be grouped into four categories based on the severity of abuse, and compensation will range from $5,000 to $450,000 per person, before lawyers’ fees are deducted.

The diocese said part of the fund will be set aside for victim counseling.

During weekend services, priests assured churchgoers that paying the settlement wouldn’t adversely affect schools, churches or charitable causes. However, the diocese began belt-tightening efforts, saying it would move its offices and announce some layoffs.

The diocese spans 14 counties and has 89,000 parishioners.

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