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Judge Orders Kansas City Diocese into Arbitration

Wednesday, June, 20, 2012


The Kansas City-St. Joseph Roman Catholic diocese has been challenged over the terms of a 2008 class-action settlement. Lawyers for 42 plaintiffs have pressed for arbitration regarding terms they don't think are being met, demanding arbitration to settle the issue. A judge overseeing the case agreed. "The language in the contract is unambiguous," said Jackson County Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw. But what exactly is being contested?


What is the Legal Arbitration About?

 

It isn't the money. When 47 plaintiffs settled their claims against the diocese in 2008, a large sum of money was involved--$10 million. But those weren't the only terms of the settlement.

 

The settlement also required that the diocese meet state child abuse reporting requirements, as well as follow other sexual misconduct policies.

 

Plaintiffs are demanding the local Catholic church show proof of meeting the reporting requirements and other policies. So far, no such proof has been shown, and none seems to be forthcoming.


The Dispute to be Resolved in Arbitration

 

The plaintiffs do not believe the diocese has handled matters appropriately in the case of two priests involved in the settlement. Rev. Michael Tierney is currently facing civil suits concerning the plaintiffs, while Rev. Shawn Ratigan will go to trial in August for federal child pornography charges.

 

The diocese's lawyer, David R. Frye, claims that the settlement's arbitration provision was intended solely for the financial aspects of the settlement. But now that a circuit judge has disagreed, the local Catholic administration is likely to come under more scrutiny.

 

Judge McGraw ordered the diocese into arbitration on June 6. Both priests involved have denied any wrongdoing.