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Spotlight Report

Diocese of N.H. reaches settlement on 16 abuse claims

Accord divides nearly $1 million

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 10/11/2002

The Catholic Diocese of Manchester yesterday announced it had reached a $950,000 settlement with 16 men who said they were abused by priests in New Hampshire over a 25-year period beginning in 1957.

The settlement resolves only a fraction of the more than 100 claims pending against priests of the diocese. But the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor for the diocese, said the settlements will help in resolving the crisis that clergy abuse has brought to New Hampshire. ''The good news is that 16 people are going to be helped,'' Arsenault said in a telephone interview following a joint news conference in Manchester with Charles Douglas, the lawyer for the 16 victims. ''It shows we recognize the pain associated with the memories which these people carry, that we do care about them, and want to assist them in being healed and restored.''

Arsenault credited Douglas and the victims with accepting the fact that the financial resources of the archdiocese were limited. Although the payments to each individual were not made public, Arsenault said none of the 16 victims received more than $150,000.

The settlement will be paid from the archdiocese's insurance coverage and from church reserve funds, Arsenault said. He stressed that the archdiocese did not have to sell any properties or take money from pastoral or charitable services to pay the settlement.

Peter Hutchins, who represents 58 others who have brought complaints against New Hampshire priests, said he would meet with officials and lawyers for the archdiocese and its principal insurance company in two weeks in hopes of resolving his clients' cases. Hutchins, however, said he was uncertain if some of his clients, who allegedly endured worse abuse than any of those whose cases were settled today, would accept a $150,000 settlement.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack did not attend yesterday's news conference, but Arsenault said he had sent letters to each of the 16 victims apologizing for the abuse they suffered.

The claims involved eight priests accused of acts of abuse between 1957 to 1982. Four the priests have died, two left the priesthood in the 1960s, and two have retired but have been banned from performing as priests. Among the eight sued by Douglas was the Rev. Leo Shea, a retired priest who pleaded guilty in 1994 to assaulting a 14-year old altar boy. Shea could not be reached for comment.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 10/11/2002.
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