The settlement of more than 500 individual claims, the result of over a year of negotiations, is believed to be the single-largest clergy sex-abuse bankruptcy settlement in the United States. It is also the first bankruptcy among the 10 Jesuit provinces nationwide. While a number of Catholic Dioceses have filed for bankruptcy, including the Spokane Diocese, the Jesuits are the first religious order to seek bankruptcy protection. The Oregon Province covers Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska. Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael Pfau
, who represents 150 of the victims and played a role in brokering the settlement, said the money for victims, while significant, is secondary in importance to exposing wrongs and forcing change. “It took courage for the men and women we represent to come forward, tell their story and challenge such a powerful institution,”
Pfau said. Although Pfau has represented hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse, he believes the bankruptcy will shed further light on what he perceives as a problem of institutional neglect. “Our clients and their communities deserve answers and deserve closure and this settlement is a big step toward accomplishing those goals,”
Pfau said. A steering committee of seven victims and their attorneys began negotiating with the Jesuits several months ago. The same committee will recommend to all claimants that the offer be accepted. Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, approximately 70 percent of the payout will come from insurance assets. The remaining 30 percent will be paid directly by the Oregon Province.
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