Dioceses pay settlements, struggle with bankruptcy over sex abuse

Dioceses pay settlements, struggle with bankruptcy over sex abuse

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While one American diocese has paid out settlements to end a series of legal challenges related to clerical sexual abuse claims, another currently finds its exit strategy from bankruptcy proceedings stalled in court.

BALTIMORE — While one American diocese has paid settlements to end legal challenges related to clerical sexual abuse claims, another currently finds its exit strategy from bankruptcy proceedings stalled in court.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has paid a series of settlements to people who alleged that they were sexually abused by a priest who worked at a high school decades ago.

The Baltimore Sun reports Tuesday that the payments stem from allegations of abuse by A. Joseph Maskell, who denied an initial allegation before his 2001 death.

Attorney Sheldon Jacobs says about a dozen people, mostly women, have reached out-of-court settlements in recent months. He declined to say how large the settlements are.

Maskell is included on the public archdiocese list of what it calls credibly accused clergymen. Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine confirmed that “settlements with victims of Joseph Maskell have been ongoing since at least 2011,” but he didn’t have information Monday on how much has been paid.

In New Mexico, though the Diocese of Gallup had its bankruptcy proceedings confirmed in June, legal disputes have stalled the case’s exit from court.

The Gallup Independent reports that Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor has filed a lawsuit against the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pennsylvania religious order that founded St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona, claiming a Navajo woman was sexually abused at the school by a Franciscan friar.

The Gallup Diocese, the Franciscans and St. Michael Mission Church have already entered a settlement agreement with another Navajo woman related to the abuse. That settlement was part of the diocese’s bankruptcy case that was confirmed in June.

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