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In what seemed like a million years of settlement talks, the Diocese of San Diego has agreed to pay $198.1 million to the sexual abuse victims of its priests. This was historic because it was the second largest settlement against a diocese in the United States. The 144 victims who had been the plaintiffs in the case each got an average of $1.38 million, which offered each victim an average of $825,000 after lawyer's fees. The diocese had previously wanted to settle the cases for $95 million, but that offer wasn't approved. The plaintiffs played hardball, and it paid off.
A significant majority of the victims were relieved by the settlement, however, many expressed anger at the church for prolonging the settlement discussions. There were also lingering accusations that the church leadership had deliberately hidden the claims against abusive clergymen in a pattern of obstruction.
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The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection a few months prior to the settlement deal was reached applying the argument it had become the simplest way to guarantee compensation for the victims, even so the bankruptcy case was dismissed after several months.
The diocese appeared to be responsible to pay for $107 million of the entire settlement with $76 million coming from their insurer and almost $15 million from the Diocese of San Bernardino, a previous part of the Diocese of San Diego. The San Diego diocese paid $40 million coming from sales of real estate property.
In what seemed like a pretty creative idea, the diocese requested its parishioners to kick in an additional $25 million to help pay the settlement. Bishop Robert H. Brom asked for the donations in a letter to dated October of 2007 alerting the parish that the diocese might have to sell its headquarters and a seminary if they were unable to raise enough money in donations. Bishop Brom also requested each of the priests in the diocese to give 30 days worth of salary to the victims.
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The Diocese of San Diego declined to publish the personnel documents of the forty eight priests involved in the case. In a bitter dispute, the diocese fought against the release in court until October 2010 when a San Diego County Superior Court judge required the release of thousands of pages of documents.
Bishop Robert McElroy assumed leadership of the Diocese of San Diego in 2015, and he promoted reforms to protect children within the parishes. Every employee will have to go through a comprehensive check, and parents as well as children are taught the warning signs of abusive priests and how to spot conduct which are improper. Hopefully this trend will carry on across the nation and guard kids.
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