US diocese to pay abuse victims $22m


US: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, has agreed to pay $22 million (€18.4 million) to settle 43 cases of sexual abuse of children by priests from the 1960s to about 1985, lawyers and the church said yesterday.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Jason Tremont, said the settlement was reached after two years of mediation by Judge William Garfinkel, who helped victims and the church reach similar settlements in 2001 and 2003.

Mr Tremont, who represented 15 of the victims, said 14 priests were accused of committing sexual abuse, ranging from rape to fondling, at the archdiocese of Hartford, mostly while John Francis Whealon was archbishop between 1968 and 1991.

The Catholic Church in the US has faced hundreds of lawsuits involving priests charged with paedophilia since the national scandal first erupted in Massachusetts in 2002 and then spread to other US dioceses.

Boston's archdiocese has agreed to pay about $86 million to settle claims, while in August, the diocese of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $56.3 million to settle 56 cases.

James Hackett, one of the victims in Hartford, said he was molested in 1976 as an altar boy.

"No amount of money can replace what was taken from me at the hands of a child molester who wore a Roman collar and called himself 'Father'," he said.

Hartford's current archbishop, Henry Mansell, apologised for any harm committed against children by priests.

"While past events cannot be changed, they can and must be acknowledged and dealt with justly and compassionately," he said.

Mr Tremont said a group of parents, after learning their children had been abused by a priest, complained to Archbishop Whealon in 1983, but they were told legal action would be taken against them if the matter was pursued.