A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago alleging that church officials discriminated against African-American victims of sexual abuse by trying to silence their claims and proposing smaller settlements than those offered to white victims.
The suit, filed today in the Northern District of Illinois by Seattle attorney Phillip Aaron on behalf of 41 men and 8 women, seeks $98 million, accusing the archdiocese, Cardinal Francis George and retired Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert of racial discrimination, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
"The defendants have acted intentionally to silence the voices of African American and minority victims while defendants distributed false and deceptive information to the public in an attempt to prevent the victims of clergy sexual abuse, their families and the African American and minority community from expressing and exposing racism and discrimination," the suit says.
As evidence that the church acted in bad faith, the suit points to a deposition by Goedert released by the archdiocese in July. In the deposition, the archdiocese’s second-highest-ranking bishop testified that he believed church law required him to keep clergy sex abuse confidential, even when most of the priests he confronted admitted to abusing minors.
The Archdiocese is standing by a report released to the public which found in an audit last month that the average settlement for African-American victims is more than 28 percent higher than settlements with white victims and 19 percent higher than the average of all settlements, the Tribune says.