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Spotlight Report

N.H. diocese agrees to pay more than $5m in settlements

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 11/27/2002

The diocese of Manchester, N.H., announced yesterday that it has agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle claims of sexual abuse against 28 priests, two lay employees, and one member of a religious order.

The incidents of abuse covered by the settlement occurred between 1956 and 1985, and involved 62 victims. But because the diocese did not have insurance coverage early in that period, it must pay the bulk of the settlement out of its own assets.

Of the total, $2.1 million will come from the diocese's unrestricted savings account, and $900,000 from other reserves. Lloyd's of London, the insurance carrier, will contribute the remaining $2 million to the settlement, the diocese stated.

Peter E. Hutchins of Manchester, who represented the victims in the settlement, praised the diocese and Lloyd's for acting in good faith in reaching the agreement. ''I'm very pleased that we were able to accomplish a settlement of this magnitude without the need to resort to litigation, with all of the potential harm to victims and other people that could entail.''

Hutchins declined to provide details on payments to individuals. But one participant in the negotiations who asked not to be identified said that one victim who had been abused more than 100 times was paid nearly $500,000.

Individual settlement amounts varied with the severity of the molestation suffered by the victim, with sodomy being the worst offense and fondling outside of the clothes being the least severe.

Only four of the 28 priests were in active ministry in New Hampshire when the complaints against them were filed. All have since been removed. The remainder had either died, retired, or left the ministry. Of the 62 victims, Hutchins said, five were women.

Yesterday's agreement brings to 78 the number of victims of clergy sexual abuse who have reached settlement on the claims with the Manchester diocese. Mark Abramson of Manchester, who represents another 60 alleged victims, broke off settlement negotiations with the diocese in September and is preparing for trial.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor for the Manchester diocese and its delegate on sexual abuse claims, said yesterday's settlement shows the determination of the diocese and Bishop John McCormack to resolve the claims.

In all, more than 40 priests who served in New Hampshire have been accused of molesting youths between the early 1950s and the late 1980s, according to Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin. McLaughlin's office is close to completing its criminal investigation into whether the Manchester diocese may have violated the state's child endangerment statute.

Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 11/27/2002.
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