CHICAGO (AP) – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has paid $ 80 million to 160 clergy victims of sexual abuse since 2001, represented by a single law firm, the attorney who heads the Minnesota-based firm told reporters on Tuesday.
She has paid a total of around $ 200 million to settle legal disputes accusing clergymen of sexual misconduct over the past few decades, according to a statement later released by the archdiocese.
Jeff Anderson, one of the most prominent lawyers representing prosecutors across the country, said at a news conference in Chicago that it was the first time he had publicly disclosed the amount of payments made to customers abused by nearly 50 clergymen.
The $ 80 million includes the latest settlements for seven prosecutors represented by Anderson’s firm. It does not include payments to survivors represented by other law firms and no more than 35 pending cases being handled by Anderson and his colleagues.
If the $ 80 million figure is correct, it means that Anderson and his colleagues’ customers may have received around 40 percent of the total of $ 200 million in disbursements from the Archdiocese.
The archdiocese’s brief statement on Tuesday stated that it will not disclose any payouts to any particular law firm or individual. It has been recognized that the payments weighed on the budget of the archdiocese, which serves more than 2 million Catholics in and around Chicago.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago has made significant strides in stabilizing our finances in recent years,” the statement said. It added that the archdiocese was still facing challenges “due to malpractice regimes, the decreasing size of our parish and other factors”.
In a July report by the Chicago Tribune, archdiocese officials were estimated to have paid an additional $ 156 million to settle survivors’ legal action in the years to come.
Anderson said that payments to his customers averaged $ 500,000 per victim over nearly 20 years, with some payouts to individuals running into the millions and others only tens of thousands of dollars.
The archdiocese struggled with litigation in the ’80s and’ 90s but was slowly developing a settlement process, Anderson said. He called the relationship with the archdiocese “arduous and inconsistent” but said that there has been a positive “fundamental change” in approach over the past few decades.
“We have so much more to do,” he said. “But make no mistake: this is progress.”
Anderson was asked by a reporter if some might raise eyebrows at how his law firm has benefited from the litigation. He replied, “You’re damn right, we made a lot of money.”
But Anderson, who began representing victims of clergy abuse in the 1980s, said his company had donated large sums of money to the decades-old movement to force the Catholic Church to “get clean” about the abuse. And he said the money secured by the company helped the survivors take control of their lives.