Personnel Bile No. 6: The E-mail and the History

Document #6 in our Orange diocese document derby doesn't reveal any new accusations of priestly boy-buggering. Instead, it's a e-mail written by diocesan vicar general Michael Heher the day that lawyers for both sides announced the $100 million settlement, along with the diocese's own history on how the deal was done. Some notes on the e-mail:

*Heher, knowing of dissension within Orange diocesan employees, sends the history of the settlement by separate e-mail and warned priests, "This is for your information, not for publication (emphasis in the original).

*Heher concludes his memo by telling priests that if they speak with reporters, "Recall that you are acting as the Bishop's agent. Criticisms and complaints are best made directly to the Bishop, not through the media." To date, not a single Orange County priest has commented on the sex-abuse scandal.


From: Father Michael Heher
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 17:52:46 -0800
Subject: Settlement Agreement Signed

The detailed settlement agreement has been signed by all parties and the "gag order" has been lifted. The Diocese resolved 90 civil cases for alleged acts of the sexual abuse of minors. Here is a quick outline of the specifics:

The cost will be $100 million; 50% of this money will be paid by our various liability insurers.

*The most notable of the non-monetary components has to do with the mediation documents and their release to the plaintiffs. Only documents that are not subject to privilege and "that relate to allegations of childhood sexual abuse" will be considered for release. The Diocese retains the right to object "on any available legal grounds" and no documents will be released without a hearing and a judge's decision.

Enclosed are several documents that may be of some assistance to you:

*A pastoral letter from Bishop Brown (in English, Spanish and Vietnamese) explaining the pastoral side of the settlement to the Orange County Catholics. We would ask you make that letter available to your parishioners by publishing it in your parish bulletin in the appropriate languages.

*By separate email: An account of how the diocese came to settle the claims so you may know the background of our settlement. This is for your information, not for publication.

*A list of F.A.Q.'s that you may publish and pass on to your parish staff. I also ask you to familiarize yourself with the contents so you accurately answer the people's inquiries. You will note that at the end of that document, there is a list of his advisor's in the making of his decision. It will be useful if you would highlight the collaborative nature of these efforts; this is not a decision entered into lightly nor were lawyers calling the shots.

*As always, you are free to speak to the press if you are so inclined. If you do speak, however, recall that you are acting as the Bishop's agent. Criticisms and complaints are best made directly to the Bishop, not through the media.


The Weeklyhas already discussed the diocese's own account of how the settlement came about in "The All-Spin Zone" (Jan. 14, 2005). Please consult.

To read the document as a nine page .pdf file, click here.


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