Chicago archdiocese paid $80 million to abuse victims represented by firm, lawyer says

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CHICAGO — A high-profile lawyer representing abuse victims says the Archdiocese of Chicago has paid more than $80 million to his clients alone since 2001.

Attorney Jeff Anderson revealed Tuesday that settlements paid to 160 victims of abuse, involving 48 alleged perpetrators, averaged about half a million dollars. Some totaled in the millions.

"(The amount) represents the magnitude of what the problem has been and the power of the clean-up that has been underway," Anderson said. “This is the first time I’ve talked publicly about this.”

The announcement is also the first time the enormity of the sexual abuse crisis' monetary impact on the archdiocese has been made public, and only represents the portion of cases involving the law firm Anderson & Associates.

Based in Minnesota, Anderson has tangled with the archdiocese for decades. He said the church fought lawsuits through the 1980s and 1990s, but later developed a settlement process.

“It does not make the pain go away. But standing up for yourself and knowing your truth as a survivor and knowing you have done something to protect other kids and then reach a resolution... is healing," Anderson said.

Standing with Anderson was 68-year-old abuse survivor Joe Iacono. Decades later, he still finds it difficult to talk about his abuse at the hands of father Thomas Francis Kelly.

"This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If we can help someone else, it’s all worth it,” Iacono said. “I thought it was imperative that I go forward and talk about this because I know today there are still a lot if survivors that are suffering in silence.”

Anderson says the dollar figure is less important than what it represents: the accountability of the archdiocese.

“There has been enormous progress, and because of that, so many survivors have felt affirmed, believed and given a chance to be part of the child protection movement,” Anderson said.

Anderson says he is currently working on three dozen other cases, including one against Father John Smyth, the now-deceased leader of Maryville Academy.

The archdiocese has not responded to requests for comment on Anderson's announcement.

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