The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Archdiocese not party to deal, lawyers say

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 7/17/2002

Weeks before a judge will decide whether to uphold a multimillion-dollar settlement agreement between 86 alleged victims of pedophile former priest John J. Geoghan and the Archdiocese of Boston, lawyers for the church are arguing that even if the agreement is enforced, the archdiocese doesn't have to pay.

In a motion filed Monday, lawyers for the archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard F. Law are asking a judge to prohibit any evidence suggesting that the archdiocese was a party to the settlement. Since the lawsuits and the settlement agreement name only 17 individual defendants, including Law - and not the archdiocese - the archdiocese cannot be held responsible for the $15 million to $30 million settlement, the lawyers argue.

''It is undisputed that no signed writing exists in which the [archdiocese] in any manner agreed to assume responsibility to pay the amounts which the defendants ostensibly agreed to pay in settlement of this matter, even assuming such a settlement existed,'' the attorneys wrote.

But Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the alleged victims, argues that the church's legal parsing of who would be ordered to pay the settlement, if enforced, ignores the recent statements of Judge Constance M. Sweeney that the archdiocese is named as the payor in the settlement agreement. Lawyers for Law and for the archdiocese could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Garabedian and other lawyers for alleged victims have been deposing those close to the mediated settlement agreement, gathering evidence for a hearing that will begin July 31. Lawyers for alleged victims argue that the settlement agreement, reached in March and rejected by the archdiocese two months later, is binding.

Lawyers for the archdiocese argue that the agreement was tentative and only three of the 17 defendants had signed it. Last week, Sweeney ruled from the bench that the archdiocese cannot rely on the vote of the archdiocesan Finance Council, which rejected the settlement as too costly, to renege on the agreement.

Yesterday, Garabedian questioned under oath Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, about the settlement agreement. The deposition was not public, but Patrick McSorley, one of Geoghan's alleged victims, attended.

Morrissey did not deny that Law said there was a settlement agreement, McSorley said. She was also questioned about the way the archdiocese announced in May that it was abandoning the agreement, he said.

''She didn't deny that they had notified the media before they had notified us,'' McSorley said.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 7/17/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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