Alaska diocese says settlement near in abuse suit

Multiple sexual abuse complaints filed in last few years, some go back five decades

Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2009

FAIRBANKS - The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks said it's near a financial settlement with a committee representing almost 300 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse.

Robert Hannon, diocesan chancellor, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that attorneys are still working out details, but a mediated agreement should be announced at a bankruptcy court hearing next week.

"I can't give specifics, but we have come to economic terms with the committee representing claimants, and the settlement will be announced on record at a hearing scheduled at the bankruptcy court on Nov. 24," Hannon said.

Ford Elsaesser, lawyer for the parishes in the sprawling diocese, released a statement Thursday confirming an overall settlement has been reached. Elsaesser said it addresses the needs of the claimants and preserves the mission of the diocese, the parishes and the Catholic school.

Ken Roosa, an attorney who represents many victims, declined to comment.

"There is a mediation in process, and the judge sent out an order that nobody is to talk until this thing is concluded," Roosa said.

Complaints of sexual abuse of a minor have been filed in the diocese in the last few years, some going back five decades. The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection last year and all proceedings are overseen in bankruptcy court in Anchorage.

The diocese serves 46 parishes over more than 400,000 square miles of Alaska's Interior, the North Slope and west coast.

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