National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  September 19, 2003

In Kentucky, some victims see stagnation


In Louisville, Ky., more than 200 clergy abuse victims greeted the news of the Sept. 7 Boston settlement (see related story) with measured enthusiasm.

“I’m really glad,” said Mike Turner, one of 243 plaintiffs in a civil case that won a $25.7 million dollar settlement from the archdiocese in June.

But Turner -- the first to file a sexual abuse suit against the Louisville archdiocese a year and a half ago -- thinks the Boston deal, which was comparable to the Louisville settlement in its per-person payout, exceeded it in some important respects.

One of the Louisville suit’s unmet demands, Turner says, was the right to “have a therapist until you don’t need a therapist anymore.”

In contrast, the Boston settlement includes coverage of unlimited mental health treatment, and the freedom to choose a therapist.

According to Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, a national clergy abuse victims’ advocacy group located in Louisville, there is an opportunity for victims to find free counseling, “but there is not necessarily a way they can pick a therapist, to find somebody they like and feel some stability.”

Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the Louisville archdiocese, said, “We just don’t have the financial resources to do open-ended counseling services now for those who were part of the settlement.”

Reynolds, who represented the archdiocese in the mediation, said that victims could take advantage of church counseling services or ask for referrals to free counseling services in the community.

Still, victims of clergy abuse in Louisville and their advocates would like to see more.

“The promise,” Archibald continued, “was once everything was settled then the archdiocese would begin their compassionate outreach.

“People are waiting for something to happen,” she said.

Turner, a veteran of the 14-month battle to settle with the Louisville archdiocese, is impatient. “The church has offered us nothing,” he said. “It bothers me that the church hasn’t taken that next step.”

But there are lessons learned from the two settlements that will empower clergy abuse victims in their quests for future settlements in other parts of the country.

Noting another positive feature of the Boston deal, the promise to add litigants to abuse policy oversight boards, Archibald said victims and their advocates are paying close attention to every settlement. “Among the survivors and advocates,” she says, “there is a lot of comparing going on in terms of what we should be able to get.”

“Reaching the settlement was in everybody’s best interest,” said the archdiocese’s Reynolds. “There needs to be a tangible sign that the victims of abuse are taken seriously.

“We effectively used all of our unrestricted funds to pay this settlement,” he added. “And as painful as this is -- the financial impact is huge -- it was critical that we provide the support.”

All sides agree that the settlements do not signal an end to the struggle.

“Until closure is brought to the civil litigation,” said Reynolds, “I don’t know how healing can begin.”

Jeff Guntzel is a freelance writer in Chicago.

National Catholic Reporter, September 19, 2003

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