Diocese in Iowa Settles With Abuse Victims for $37 Million

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, has reached a $37 million settlement to compensate victims of sexual abuse by clergy members and let the diocese emerge from bankruptcy, the two sides announced yesterday.

The money will be divided among 156 people who say they suffered sexual abuse by priests and lower-level employees dating from the late 1930s. Part of the settlement will be set aside for victims who may still come forward.

The diocese is the last of five to reach such a settlement after filing for bankruptcy rather than face what would probably be a deluge of suits.

Under the accord, victims will be allowed to speak about their experiences at parishes and through articles in the diocesan newspaper. The newspaper will also publish the offenders’ names.

David Clohessy, national director of the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the wide range of noneconomic proposals for the Davenport victims was unusual.

“In most settlements, church officials fight tooth and nail to oppose any reforms,” Mr. Clohessy said. “This is a hard-won, long overdue victory for dozens of deeply wounded but brave victims.”

Bishop Martin J. Amos of Davenport said in a statement: “I apologize for the pain caused by the actions of some priests in the past 50 years. The priests who abused children betrayed the people who trusted them and they betrayed the church. This has been a sad and difficult time for all of us as we attempt to offer healing to all victims of abuse.”

The diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2006 shortly after a jury awarded $1.5 million to a sexual abuse victim, D. Michl Uhde, and amid a crush of abuse claims from others. After a year of negotiations between church officials and victims, a settlement was reached at 1 a.m. on Thursday, after four days of mediation in Chicago, according to a diocesan statement.

Patrick Noaker, a lawyer whose firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates of St. Paul, represents more than 60 victims, said he was “especially proud of the work that was done in providing for future claimants should they come forward.”

Last month in San Diego, a judge dismissed a bankruptcy filing by the diocese there after it agreed to pay 133 claimants of sexual abuse $183 million. In September, the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., emerged from bankruptcy after it settled 153 claims of sexual abuse for $51 million, with an additional $20 million allotted for possible future victims.

Also this year, the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., emerged from bankruptcy after settling 180 claims for $48 million. And last year, the Tucson Diocese was cleared of bankruptcy after paying more than $22 million to more than 50 claimants.

In those four instances, the dioceses gathered large sums of money largely through their insurance carriers and, in some cases, by selling property and raising money among parishioners. The San Diego diocese continues to face a $25 million shortfall, a spokesman, Rodrigo Valdivia, said.

Officials in Davenport said its settlement would also be paid for through insurance, as well using investments and a building with the bishop’s office.