Denver’s Roman Catholic archbishop proposes mediation in sex-abuse cases |

Denver’s Roman Catholic archbishop proposes mediation in sex-abuse cases

the associated press

DENVER ” Denver’s Roman Catholic archbishop offered mediation Wednesday to 30 people who have filed lawsuits alleging they were sexually abused by priests and said a “significant” pool of money has been set aside for settlements.

Archbishop Charles Chaput did not say how much money had been earmarked for settlements. He first offered mediation last August, soon after the first lawsuits were filed, and followed up several times but he said lawyers for the alleged victims expressed no interest.

“We want to speak to them [the accusers] ourselves, directly, and this is the best way to do that,” Chaput said following a news conference.

Attorneys for the accusers were cautious and skeptical and the Denver leader of a national victims group called it a “public relations move”.

Adam Horowitz, who has filed 19 cases against the archdiocese, said he would discuss the proposal with clients individually but added that any “meaningful resolution” would have to involve the archdiocese acknowledging what they knew and when about the two priests who are named in the lawsuits.

Without knowing what action the church took regarding the late Rev. Leonard Abercrombie and former priest Harold Robert White, along with how many complaints were filed against them, victims would be negotiating “in a vacuum”, said lawyer Tom Roberts.

Jeff Anderson, who along with Roberts is handling 11 cases, said it was odd for Chaput to make the public appeal because Anderson said he had previously told the archdiocese the victims would come to the table if such information was revealed.

“They need to come clean with the secrets they’ve kept under seal for decades,” Anderson said. “Until that happens through our legal process in an orderly way, none of these survivors would be interested or able to bring this to resolution or healing.”

Such information could be contained in clergy personnel files but Chaput doubted that such files would be publicly released as part of any settlement. However, former Boulder District Judge Richard Dana, who will lead the three-member mediation panel, said the church has assured him that he would be able to look at any internal records he needed to negotiate a settlement.

Roberts said his clients would probably be reluctant to negotiate if that information wasn’t made public.

“Part of all this is to make known what happened in order to prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.

Chaput’s announcement follows a heated debate at the state Capitol over whether to make it easier for alleged victims to file lawsuits based on old allegations, legislation that church lobbyists fought along with lobbyists for the insurance industry and public schools. Chaput said he had considered going public with his offer for a while but wanted to wait until after the session ended earlier this month to avoid the perception that the church was trying to interfere with the legislature.

Jeb Barrett, the leader of the Denver chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the announcement was partly intended to “‘soften’ the justifiably harsh public perception of Chaput as a bare-knuckles politician who played vicious hard-ball with lawmakers in thwarting sex abuse reform legislation.”

Horowitz has also filed 18 cases against the Pueblo diocese but those cases are not covered by this mediation offer.

Anyone with a claim must submit it to Dana’s office at Judicial Arbiter Group in Denver within 90 days starting Thursday. The panel would have two months to offer a settlement, and the accusers could reject the offer, Dana said.

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