After plaintiff attorneys last week told the Archdiocese of Boston the priest sex abuse case was worth $90-$120 million, based on their review of 500-plus claims and compensations granted in similar cases, Archbishop Sean O'Malley raised his initial proposed settlement to $65 million. Since O'Malley's first offer of $55 million earlier this month, both sides have undergone negotiations, with help from two professional mediators. Still, they remain at odds on several points, including total compensation, determining individual victim allocation, as well as the release of priests' psychiatric records.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports a 1962 confidential Vatican document has surfaced instructing church officials to maintain "perpetual silence...under penalty of excommunication" in investigations surrounding priest solicitation of sexual sin during confession. Attorneys and experts are weighing whether the file represents a "smoking gun" in allegations that church officials conspired to conceal sex abuse. Dan Shea, the Texas attorney who discovered the document, insisted it's "not just a smoking gun, but a nuclear bombshell," reported the Post. However, others including former church sex abuse case consultant Rev. Thomas P. Doyle say the media is over blowing what's already known. "...[S]ince January 2002, we have witnessed wave after wave of deception, stonewalling, outright lying, intimidation of victims and complex schemes to manipulate the truth and obstruct justice," he told the Post.
In the latest turn of events, convicted former priest John J. Geoghan was killed this weekend by a fellow inmate incarcerated on charges of "gay-bashing" murder and known to hold anti-Semitic views, reported the Boston Globe. Joseph L. Druce strangled and beat Geoghan after following him into his cell and jamming the door shut.
Geoghan was serving a nine- to 10-year prison sentence for fondling a 10-year-old boy in a swimming pool in the early 1990s, and he had been accused of molesting more than 130 children since the 1980s.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .