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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 01:39 GMT 02:39 UK
US Church rejects sex abuse deal
John Geoghan (L) and his attorney Geoffrey Packard (R) in court in January
Geoghan's trial sparked a crisis in the US Church
The Roman Catholic Church in Boston, Massachusetts, has backed out of a multi-million-dollar payout to 86 alleged victims in a child sexual abuse scandal involving a former priest.

The Archdiocese's finance council said the proposed settlement to the alleged victims of the now defrocked priest, John Geoghan, would leave the Boston Church without money to pay other victims.

Are these people inhuman?

Mitchell Garabedian

A lawyer for the alleged victims reacted furiously, accusing the church of "re-victimising" them.

As the council announced its rejection of the settlement, another priest formerly of the Boston Archdiocese, Paul Shanley, prepared to return from California to face charges of child rape in Massachusetts.

Cardinal's regret

Allegations against John Geoghan triggered the sexual abuse crisis which has rocked the Church in the US and prompted public calls for the resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law.

"This is a disgrace," said Mitchell Garabedian, lawyer for the alleged Geoghan victims. "Are these people inhuman?"

Cardinal Bernard Law
Cardinal Law has come under pressure to resign for reassigning priests accused of paedophilia
Cardinal Law, who had pleaded for the settlement to go ahead, expressed "deep regret" at the finance council's decision, said archdiocesan chancellor David Smith.

Explaining its decision, the council said that resources were needed "to provide a just and proportional response to other victims".

The settlement reached in March after 11 months of negotiations is reportedly worth between $20m and $30m.

Geoghan, 66, was sentenced by a court in January to 10 years in jail for having sexually abused a 10-year-old boy in a public swimming-pool in 1991.

Shanley case looms

Father Paul Shanley was arrested on Thursday in southern California on suspicion of three counts of child rape.

He appeared in court on Friday to waive his right to refuse extradition to the state of Massachusetts, where the alleged incidents took place between 1983 and 1990.

The defendant, who is 71 and now retired, will be held without bail until he is picked up by Massachusetts authorities, a San Diego Superior Court judge ordered.

Fr Paul Shanley
Paul Shanley is to be returned to Massachusetts to face trial
The criminal charges in Massachusetts are the first to be filed against Paul Shanley, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

He is the focus of a civil suit brought against the Boston Archdiocese of Boston and Cardinal Law, who are alleged to have failed to protect children from being abused by priests.

Cardinal Law is due to give a sworn statement in the case next month.

Law moves ahead

On Friday Massachusetts passed a bill requiring clergy to report cases of suspected abuse to state social workers.

The law was signed by acting Governor Jane Swift.

Now congregational leaders, clergy and church youth workers have 30 days to submit any information about child abuse - regardless of when it took place - to the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.

Withholding information constitutes a misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

The BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington
"Behind the scenes the church financial authorities were meeting and decided the money was too much"
Boston Globe reporter Steve Kurkjian
"They are recommending establishing a universal fund"
See also:

04 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
More HK priests accused of abuse
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