Bishop grilled on abuse claims

first_imgSAN DIEGO (AP) — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego endured more than six hours of tense questioning Friday from people who claim they were sexually abused by priests. Bishop Robert H. Brom sat silently as seven men and women who have sued the diocese, along with attorneys representing more than 140 plaintiffs, grilled him on subjects ranging from the accuracy of the diocese’s asset disclosures to responsiveness to abuse claims. The first plaintiff called to face Brom broke down in tears and invoked the name of God to make him answer to claims of abuse she said a priest inflicted on her as a girl. The bishop softly refused to answer. “How can you not respond? How in the name of God can you not?” said Diana Williams, her voice rising to a shout as she demanded an apology for a rape she says she suffered at a Catholic orphanage. “I’m here after I lost my faith, my virginity, my innocence,” Williams tearfully told the bishop, after explaining that the church had cut off payments for her therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. “I’m asking if you will make good on your promise … Will you reinstate my therapy?” “I can’t respond in this context,” Brom said. “I will be happy to visit with you.” Brom said repeatedly that he decided to file for bankruptcy to move ahead with compensating victims while protecting the resources the diocese needs for education and pastoral work. “We’re prepared to do the best that we can,” Brom told a man who said he was abused. “We have concluded that we believe, and it’s sincere, that the process we’re going through will be our best way of responding.” Brom testified as part of a hearing designed to give the diocese’s creditors the chance to ask about church finances amid accusations that the diocese is shielding assets in bankruptcy proceedings. One woman, identified only by her court alias Jane Roe, challenged the completeness of a list of 38 accused priests released last month by the diocese in a move the bishop described as a step toward reconciliation. She said she was abused as a 9-year-old by a priest whose name was not on the list. “I just want to know what it takes to get someone identified as a child sexual abuser publicly,” the woman said. Brom said only priests who were accused by more than one person were included on the list. About 50 people, including some who have sued the diocese on claims they were sexually abused by priests, came to the hearing, which began with a sometimes testy exchange between the bishop and a federal trustee supervising the proceedings. U.S. trustee Steven Katzman grew impatient when asking Brom about properties and other assets listed in court filings. “Just answer the question,” Katzman said at one point. Brom, dressed in his collar, replied in a calm voice throughout, frequently telling Katzman that he needed to refer to his staff for answers to the questions. Attorneys representing victims of alleged abuse have repeatedly accused the diocese of undervaluing its holdings and of shifting assets to parishes in an effortto reduce the total amount available for any eventual settlement. Brom had not appeared in court since the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in February, just hours before the first civil trial was slated to begin in San Diego Superior Court. Last month, the diocese proposed a $95 million settlement for sex-abuse victims that would pay plaintiffs between $10,000 and $800,000 each. An additional $3 million fund would be established to resolve claims that have not yet been filed. Plaintiff attorneys are seeking a settlement of about $200 million. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more