BOSTON (AP) – Months of litigation against the Boston archdiocese over clergy sex abuse ended Saturday as victims learned what portion of a massive settlement they could expect from the church.

The announcements, released first to the victims’ attorneys, capped months of mediation in the nation’s largest known financial payout over clergy abuse. Over the past two months, hundreds of men and women told stories of abuse to arbitrators charged with dividing up the $85 million settlement, tearfully detailing rapes, molestation and assaults.

Alexa MacPherson, 28, of Boston, said the award brought her little comfort because of the lingering effects of years of abuse.

“This money, it means nothing,” said MacPherson, who declined to say how much she was awarded. “In a way, I wish that I didn’t even have it, because I need to find the change and the peace within me, and right now, that’s not happening, even though I’m getting this check.”

Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley said he recognized that money cannot adequately compensate victims for their suffering.

“We hope that the conclusion of this phase of the settlement will provide survivors and their loved ones with some measure of healing and peace,” he said in a statement.

Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said he received the breakdown of the awards for his clients from church attorney Thomas Hannigan Jr. just after 10 a.m. He immediately began telling his 120 clients.

“It’s a bittersweet process,” he said. “Some clients are happy, some are not happy.”

About 540 victims have been allocated between $80,000 and $300,000 each under the agreement reached with the Archdiocese of Boston in September, though specific numbers for each victim weren’t available.

Ten people – all alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley or their families – have elected to press on with lawsuits. Attorneys said Saturday at least seven new lawsuits have been filed in recent days.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said checks would be made out to victims on Monday. He said the arbitration’s conclusion closes one chapter in the scandal, but the crisis is not over for the victims.

The clergy abuse crisis began in early 2002, when court documents in the case of the late defrocked priest John J. Geoghan revealed the church knew about allegations against him, but kept him in ministry, moving him from parish to parish. Geoghan was murdered in prison in August.

Lawyers for alleged victims forced the church to turn over its secret personnel files, which showed dozens of priests had been accused of abuse. In July, Attorney General Thomas Reilly released a report saying that 250 priests and church workers probably molested as many as 1,000 people between 1940 and 2000.

In September, the victims reached the $85 million settlement with the church. The church has agreed to about $4 million more with other victims. The church has announced it will sell church property to help pay off the settlement.

As part of the settlement, arbitrators have spent the last two months meeting with each of the victims and listening to their stories. The awards aim to reflect the type and severity of abuse, and the psychological harm caused to victims.

The arbitrators finished their deliberations Friday.

David Carney, 37, of Rockland said he was pleased with how quickly the arbitration went and that the church has taken responsibility for the abuse. Still, he said, the pain of the abuse won’t disappear.

“My pain will be there,” he said. “It might not be there strong every day, but it will be there. It will be a remembrance.”

Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. who firm represented about half the victims, personally talked with about 15 clients by mid-afternoon. His colleagues at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig had spoken to about 50 more. Most were pleased with the settlement, he said, and about half have agreed to put the money into a client trust fund for safekeeping.

John J. King, 40, of Methuen, said the entire process drained him. King, an alleged victim of convicted child rapist the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, said now it’s time to be with his daughters, to go to work, to drive the coastline of California and “stick his toes in the ocean.”

“For me, I’m tired,” he said. “That’s how I feel. I’m tired. I have no solace in any of this.”

AP-ES-12-20-03 1620EST



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