February 1, 2006

Spokane diocese offers to settle sex abuse cases

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic diocese of Spokane,
Washington, one of three in the United States to file for
bankruptcy because of sex abuse claims, offered victims of
priest pedophilia a $45.75 million settlement, a lawyer
involved in the case said on Wednesday.

At a separate news conference, Spokane Bishop William
Skylstad said, "I want to publicly apologize for, and on behalf
of, myself, and the Catholic Church in this diocese, for the
terrible wrongs that were inflicted upon you."

Under the church's proposal, the diocese would stop
referring to victims as "alleged victims" and offer a
commitment to prevent future cases of abuse at the 82 parishes
it oversees in eastern Washington.

The proposal also requires Skylstad, who is the president
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to advocate the
elimination of statutes of limitations for sex crimes and to
write letters of apology to the families and victims of abuse,
said James Stang, a lawyer for a committee that represents 75

The U.S. Catholic Church has faced hundreds of lawsuits
involving priests charged with pedophilia since the national
scandal erupted in Massachusetts in 2002.

Facing financial claims from a series of priest sex abuse
lawsuits, dioceses in Spokane, Portland, Oregon, and Tucson,
Arizona, filed for bankruptcy protection.

The committee representing the Spokane victims recommended
accepting the diocese's proposal, but the settlement would not
be finalized until each individual accepts the offer, Stang

The proposed settlement in Spokane calls for 80 percent of
the $45.75 million to be paid out by October 1, 2007, and would
cover people who have already filed lawsuits against the
diocese, Stang said. It would also have to be approved by U.S.
Bankruptcy Court within 120 days.