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After many years of negotiations, the Diocese of San Diego decided to pay almost $200 million to the sexual abuse victims of its priests. At the time, this was a record shattering settlement and it generated a lot of publicity across the country. Over 140 victims who had been the plaintiffs in the case each took home an average of $825,000 after lawyer's fees. The diocese had recently offered to settle the cases for about half that amount ($95 million), but that offer was not taken.
Victims were pleased by the settlement, however some expressed aggravation at the church for prolonging the settlement discussions. There were also lurking accusations that the church leadership had purposely concealed the claims against abusive clergymen.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection a few months ahead of the pay out, however the bankruptcy case was dismissed after several months.
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Ultimately, the diocese was responsible to pay for $107 million of the overall settlement with $76 million coming from their insurer and just about $15 million from the Diocese of San Bernardino. The San Diego diocese paid an additional $40 million from sales of property.
The diocese also wanted its parishioners and priests to help pay the settlement. Parishioners were asked to kick in $25 million to help pay for the settlement, and priests were asked to forfeit a month’s worth of salary. The Bishop requested the donations in a cover letter to parishioners in October of 2007 warning them that the diocese may need to sell its headquarters along with a seminary if they were not able to raise adequate money in contributions.
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Fighting to the bitter end, the Diocese of San Diego turned down the request to produce the personnel files of the forty eight priests involved in the case. The diocese fought the release in the court right until October 2010 when a judge required the production of thousands of pages of documents.
One of the lasting repercussions of the settlement include church reform, especially when it comes to hiring new employees. Additionally, parents along with children are trained the warning signs of abusive priests and ways to recognize conduct that is improper. Hopefully this development will continue in the united states and help protect kids from predators in the future.
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