all parties would benefit

By Diogenes (articles | Oct 06, 2007

Bishop Tod Brown's Diocese of Orange has agreed to pay $6,885,000 to settle four sex abuse lawsuits involving lay employees and four female victims.

The settlement ends one chapter of an often farcical case involving fractious attorneys, clumsy grand-standing, and the perfectly-timed breakdown of Msgr. John Urell (the diocesan vicar general and a key witness) during his July deposition. That breakdown prompted the plaintiffs' attorneys to file charges of contempt of court against Bishop Brown, on the grounds that he had perverted the course of justice by shipping Urell across the border to a Canadian treatment center. The bishop's lawyer dismissed the allegation with disdain:

Peter Callahan, Brown's attorney, called the contempt hearing a stall tactic by plaintiff attorneys and said Brown was eager to get to trial.

A bishop eager to get to trial? That's not something we often see in these matters. Yesterday, however, the Diocese issued a statement concerning its seven million dollars worth of healing and reconciliation:

The lead Diocesan attorney Peter M. Callahan Esq., partner in the Tustin-based firm of Callahan, McCune & Willis APLC said, "The direct involvement of the Bishop in the mediation process was a key factor in today's results. When Judge Andler invited the parties to explore settlement, it was our view that if a reasonable settlement could be reached, then all parties would potentially benefit as it would end months, and possibly years, of protracted litigation." [my emphasis]

Wait a minute. I thought the bishop was eager to begin the months and years of protracted litigation. But of course the first statement is nearly six days old. In the meantime we've grown as a community of faith. We're on a learning curve here. And we've learned that the Diocese regards $1.7 million per victim as "a reasonable settlement," implying that its potential liability (were the case to come to an actual trial) was gauged to be higher yet.

Still, the settlement means that Msgr. Urell will no longer have to testify in this case. No hostile lawyers or skeptical judges will be scrutinizing his medical records or phone logs. He can devote his full attention to his treatment at Southdown. And if Bishop Brown can rest more easy as a consequence, I'm sure the faithful of Orange will agree that it's money well spent.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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  • Posted by: - Dec. 23, 2009 6:13 PM ET USA

    I find very little to add to this excellent exposition and analysis. My comment pertains the possible knowledge of the late founder of the true nature of his own acts. Tragically I am forced to consider that he must have been aware. When someone acts without full knowledge of something his or her acts tend to hide or obscure all pertaining to the situation. Not in this case. He was a leader, counselor and a spiritual director. All that was in fact an act with the possible help from down under.