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Priest abuse settlement in Hartford, Conn.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., said Monday it has agreed to pay $22 million to 43 people who say they were abused by priests.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford agreed to pay $22 million to 43 people who say they were sexually abused by priests, the archdiocese and a lawyer representing victims said Monday.

The alleged abuse dated back as far as the 1960s and involved 14 priests or retired priests, said attorney Jason Tremont, who was involved in a similar settlement in Bridgeport two years ago. The settlement was the result of two years of talks mediated by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel in Bridgeport.

“While I am grateful that the diocese has offered this compensation, I want to make it perfectly clear that no amount of money can replace what was taken from me at the hands of a child molester who wore a Roman collar and called himself ’Father,”’ said James Hackett, who said he was molested in 1976 when he was an altar boy and middle school student at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hamden.

The settlement payments will come from long-term savings and insurance policies, the archdiocese said. Money donated during annual church collections will not be used.

The archdiocese said six of the accused priests are dead and four are retired. Three others are no longer active in ministry. One remains active, and a sexual abuse review panel determined allegations against him were not credible, the diocese said.

“The archbishop wants to begin the healing process for those whose lives have been seriously harmed by sexual abuse, and for the church itself,” said John Gatzak, a spokesman for the archdiocese. “We must acknowledge and deal with what has been done with justice and compassion.”

The settlement stemmed from five lawsuits filed against three priests just before the statute of limitations expired. Under Connecticut law, victims have until their 48th birthdays to bring claims in court.

Tremont said most of the alleged abuse occurred between 1968 and 1991, when John Francis Whealon was the Hartford archbishop. Tremont contends that in 1983, a group of parents complained to Whealon that a priest was abusing their children and were threatened with legal action. Whealon died in 1991.

Tremont also represented some of the 40 people to whom the Bridgeport Diocese paid $21 million to settle abuse claims in 2003.