.- The Diocese of Charleston has described as “unfounded” a lawsuit’s claim that diocesan officials colluded with attorneys who served as counsels in a class action settlement between the diocese and past victims of sexual abuse. The diocese entered into a settlement agreement with sexual abuse victims on January 12, 2007. The agreement was approved on July 30, 2007.
On April 13 attorney Greg Meyers filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the diocese had colluded with victims’ attorneys in the class action suit. Myers’ suit also alleged that a plaintiff was sexually abused by a priest.
A press release from the diocese said that the class action agreement provided a mechanism to compensate individuals who claimed to have been abused by church personnel and to compensate their spouses and parents for their injuries resulting from the abuse.
“The Diocese paid these class claimants nearly $10 million, provided mental health counseling and offered an opportunity for pastoral healing. The Diocese entered into the Class Action Settlement Agreement in an attempt to offer victims of sexual abuse a non-confrontational avenue for compensation and healing,” the diocese said.
According to the diocese, the April 13 lawsuit was filed only weeks after the South Carolina Supreme Court refused to hear a similar case alleging collusion filed by attorney David Flowers.
On March 20 the court reportedly expressed concern that filings such as Flowers’ have delayed a final resolution to the underlying class action case.
Responding to the April 13 lawsuit’s allegation that one plaintiff was sexually abused by Father Justin Goodwin, the diocese said that the priest was suspended from active ministry in 1994 after being charged with criminal sexual conduct and performing a lewd act on a minor. He died on December 25, 1995.
“The Diocese of Charleston is adamant that it will not tolerate the abuse of children by Church personnel,” a diocesan press release said. It said the diocese in 1994 enacted “strict policies” to protect children, prevent abuse and promote healing.
“Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone invites any victim of sexual abuse by Church personnel to meet with him for spiritual healing,” the diocese’s statement continued. “During this Easter season, the Diocese asks all people to continue to pray for healing and peace for all, especially victims of sexual abuse.”