Church Sex Suit Settlement Reported

John Geoghan priest
The Archdiocese of Boston reached a financial settlement with 86 people claiming sexual molestation by defrocked priest John J. Geoghan that could total up to $30 million, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer.

"We've resolved all issues," attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Tuesday.

Garabedian said 11 months of negotiations were completed late Monday night after an intense five-hour session with a mediator and Wilson Rogers Jr., the attorney for the archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

"It's a giant step in the healing process of my clients to settle this matter," he said. "This settlement helps my clients regain some dignity...The agreement itself is a sign of a recognition the church has done something wrong."

Garabedian says the settlement does not require the victims to remain confidential, nor does it preclude further lawsuits against Geoghan in the future.

Geoghan was accused by 130 people of molesting them during his decades as a priest. He is serving a 9- to 10-year prison sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy and faces another criminal trial. Two child rape charges against him recently were dropped after a judge ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

All 86 clients have agreed to the settlement, Garabedian said. An arbitrator will determine the exact amount each plaintiff receives.

Mediator Paul Finn kept both sides at the bargaining table until the agreement was concluded. A tentative agreement was reached March 4.

The archdiocese months ago agreed not to require the 86 plaintiffs to sign confidentiality agreements, Garabedian said. In recent negotiations, the church also agreed to drop a request that Garabedian not handle any future abuse cases against the archdiocese.

Garabedian, who represents 70 alleged victims and 16 family members of alleged victims, said the settlement totaled between $15 million and $30 million.

The Boston archdiocese already has paid an estimated $15 million to 40 alleged Geoghan victims since the mid-1990s and faces dozens more claims and hundreds of new allegations against Geoghan and other priests.

The lawsuits filed against Geoghan have also been the catalyst for a growing sexual abuse scandal facing the archdiocese.

In January, The Boston Globe obtained thousands of documents in the cases, some of which showed the archdiocese had ignored warnings about Geoghan's pedophilia, despite allegations stretching back three decades and across six parishes.

The revelations led Law to publicly apologize to Geoghan's victims.

"There is no way for me to describe adequately the evil of such acts," Law said.

Law also announced a "zero tolerance" policy and within the last month, he has given prosecutors the names of 80 priests accused of abuse over five decades, and suspended 10 active priests.

Many victims and other critics have called for Law's resignation. Recent polls have shown Law's support eroding among Roman Catholics in Massachusetts.

Law, however, has said repeatedly that he will not step down.

Phil Saviano, head of a support group of people abused by priests, said no amount of money can erase the scars of sexual abuse, but it can pay "for some much-needed therapy."