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getting the help you can't afford

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 24, 2010

The US bishops spent $104.4 million last year on sex-abuse settlements. You know that already; you saw today's top news headline. But now take another look at the numbers.

Of that $104.4 million, a bit more than one-fourth-- $28.7 million-- was for legal fees. For every $2 handed over in damages to abuse victims, another $1 was handed over to lawyers. 

What is it, exactly, that the lawyers did to earn that $28.7 million? Did they protect the bishops from the prospect of even greater settlement costs? Or did they merely smooth the process and write out the checks? 

Let me ask the question another way. If no lawyers had been involved, on paper it seems that the American bishops would have $28.7 million in their bank accounts now: enough to save dozens of parishes and schools from closing. Which would be more valuable to the apostolic mission of the Catholic Church: the parishes, the schools, or the lawyers?

Before moving on, notice one more thing about the bishops' expenses. While $6.5 million was spent on therapy for victims, $10.9 million went to support for offenders. Something is profoundly wrong here, when more money is spent on predators than on the effort to make their victims whole again. 

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  • Posted by: paulmay6949 - Mar. 24, 2010 6:47 PM ET USA

    Were these all "Catholic" lawyers? You know; keeping it in the family? What might have been the cost if the first priest noticed by the first bishop who was suspicious, was removed, and all in the USCCB declared war on the problem? How large then would have been the problem. But, that's not fair, is it? In what year would that have been?

  • Posted by: parochus - Mar. 24, 2010 5:58 PM ET USA

    Actually, I would be that's probably a small percentage of the total money that went to lawyers. Without looking at the actual data, I bet that's what the Bishops paid their own defense lawyers. Anywhere from 33 to 50% of the settlements which were paid out probably went to plaintiff lawyers as contingency fees. But who needs tort reform. Many of them were probably Catholic...

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