A $1.25 million resolution of civil lawsuits filed by those who claimedthey were sexually abused by priests of the Catholic Diocese ofPittsburgh was the best deal they could get, attorneys said.
"It is with mixed feelings that we are settling these cases. The courtsand Legislature have disfavored these cases," said attorney Alan Perer,representing 26 men and nine women who sued the diocese in 2004,alleging they were abused by priests.
Despite the odds against them, three plaintiffs opted out of the settlement in order to keep their cases active, he said.
In return for a share of the $1.25 million "Outreach Fund" thatwill be divided by retired Allegheny County Judge Alan Penkower andcounseling the diocese will pay for, 32 of the plaintiffs dropped theirlawsuits against the diocese.
Perer, who would not discuss how much attorneys fees in the case mightbe, said Penkower will decide the amount of money each person receivesbased on the severity of abuse and the impact on their lives.
The oldest claim of abuse began in 1954 and the most recent was in1989, said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, diocesan spokesman. Insurance moneywill pay for the Outreach Fund, he said.
A group of alleged victims who indicated they were not happywith the settlement planned to meet last night to discuss it and wouldprobably issue a statement today, a spokesman for the group said.
Nine of the 18 priests accused are dead; nine no longer practiceministry, Lengwin said. One priest, Richard J. Dorsch, was convicted.
"Many of these victims would love to have their day in court," said attorney Richard Serbin, co-counsel in the cases.
Pennsylvania courts have ruled the statute of limitations -- twoyears after a person's 18th birthday -- prevents filing lawsuitsbecause the alleged abuses occurred long before the case were filed,Perer said.
Most plaintiffs who sued the diocese three years ago are in their 40s. Their cases never reached trial.
"It's been a long road for these people," said attorney Diane Perer,who handled many of the interviews with her husband, Alan Perer.
Unlike California, which gave people an extra year to file claims, Pennsylvania has not, Alan Perer said.
Serbin said a measure was introduced in the Legislature last year toextend the statute of limitations, but it remains in committee.
"It's sad because of Pennsylvania's predator-friendly laws noneof those victims will have their day in court," said David Clohessy,national director of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests.
Incoming Bishop David A. Zubik wanted to see if the cases could beresolved, said Alan Perer, who added that a new level of compassionsurfaced recently in discussions about the cases.
But Zubik distanced himself from the announcement, pointing out in astatement that he does not become bishop of Pittsburgh until Sept. 28.
Zubik said he learned of the possible resolution two weeks ago and supported the effort.
"I think it is paramount that, as church, we do what we can to bringhealing to people who have been harmed," he said in a statement. InGreen Bay, Zubik publically apologized to sex assault victims and helda "prayer service of apology" last fall for those victimized by thechurch.
The decision to resolve the cases was made by Bishop Paul J.Bradley, who is serving as administrator of the diocese until Zubik'sinstallation.
"Outreach and healing have been central to our response to victims of clergy sexual misconduct," Bradley said.
Craig Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5646.