Saturday, August 15, 2009

N.S. Church Parishes to pay in Sex-abuse Settlement

Original article

Roman Catholic parishes in the diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia are being told they will fund a $13-million settlement agreement for church members who alleged they were sexually abused by priests.

In a series of meetings held this week in Sydney, Antigonish and Port Hawkesbury, members of parish councils and finance committees met to discuss how they will come up with the money.

The settlement was announced in Halifax last week for people who claimed they suffered sexual abuse going back more than 50 years.

Tom Langley, chair of the legal settlement committee, said the diocese and parishes have enough assets to pay the settlement. He said surveys were taken of the diocese's properties and cash flow in February, months before the settlement was announced.

"The first thing that will occur is that parishes will be asked to pool their cash and liquid resources into a fund to begin the process," he said.

Langley said no churches or glebe houses currently in use will close. The other assets of a church, such as land, may be sold, but Langley said the settlement committee wants the parishes to make their own decisions about what they'll have to give up.

Michael Campbell, a member of the Parish of St. Leonard in New Waterford, said some parishioners are wondering where the money will come from.

"Many would say that parishioners weren't the ones responsible, and that's true," Campbell said. "However, because of our faith and understanding the challenge before us, as a community of Catholics, we will work together to help in any way that we can."

The settlement came out of a class-action lawsuit filed last year. The suit, spearheaded by a New Waterford man who said he was abused by a priest, claimed the church knew that children were being sexually abused and didn't protect them.

Bishop Raymond Lahey also apologized to the victims and their families when announcing the settlement last Friday.

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