[JURIST] The Roman Catholic Diocese in Vermont [official website] on Thursday settled with dozens of former alter boys who alleged they were sexually abused by several clergy 30 years ago. The church agreed to pay 26 accusers a total of $17.65 million to drop child sex abuse cases pending in Burlington's Chittenden Superior Court [official website]. The original claims were filed eight years ago by 36 former altar boys and young members of the church against the state-wide Catholic diocese for negligence in hiring and supervising pedophile priests. Burlington's Bishop Salvatore Matano released a letter [text, PDF] on the diocese's website apologizing to those affected by the sexual abuse and assuring the members that the cost of the settlement will be the "sole responsibility" of the diocese:
No funds from parishes, institutions, charitable agencies of the Diocese or the Bishop's Fund have been used for past settlements, and none are being used to meet the financial obligations resulting from these present settlements. The intentions of our donors have been and continue to be both respected and upheld.
The diocese's unrestricted reserves have been depleted by the cost of the settlement. In order to pay the remainder, the diocese is attempting to sell several pieces of property and has secured an interim loan using diocesan property as collateral.The diocese also settled three cases [Times Argus report] that were on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court [official website] for an undisclosed amount. This settlement will not preclude other accusers from filing suits against the church.
This settlement comes a month after the Vatican [official website] released church procedures [JURIST report] for handling alleged cases of sexual abuse by priests, instructing, "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed." The "Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations" summarizes the procedures governing investigations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) [official profile] into allegations of sex abuse by clergy members. The CDF guidelines provide for interim measures meant to ensure the safety of others during civil authorities' investigations or legal proceedings. The guidelines also outline a multi-tiered system of enforcement and appeals, including local bishops, the CDF, and the Pope himself. Since 2007, in the US alone, the Church has settled more than 500 cases [JURIST news archive] of abuse for over $900 million.