Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Diocese to pay $27.5M to settle 4 sex abuse claims

September 19, 2018 Associated Press
The Cathedral-Basilica of St. James Cathedral in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Josh Ross

Four men who said they were sexually abused as boys by a teacher at a Catholic church have reached a $27.5 million settlement with the Diocese of Brooklyn, which encompasses Brooklyn and Queens.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the agreement is one of the largest settlements ever awarded to victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The men will each receive about $6.8 million.

The settlement comes just two weeks after the New York attorney general subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of an investigation into the handling of sex abuse allegations. A grand jury report this summer found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 priests in Pennsylvania.

“These were boys who were abused in second grade through sixth grade, for years for some of them,” said Ben Rubinowitz, one of the lawyers for the victims. “The egregious nature of the conduct is the reason that the church paid what they did.”

Lawyers for the victims say 67-year-old Angelo Serrano, a lay teacher of religion at St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn, repeatedly abused the victims between 2003 and 2009. Serrano is serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2011 to inappropriate course of sexual conduct with a child.

“We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for these claimants,” the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement. “The Diocese remains committed to ensuring that its parishes, schools and youth programs remain safe and secure for the young people who are entrusted to our care.”

The statement added that Serrano was a “volunteer worker” at a local parish and “was not clergy or an employee of the Diocese or parish.”

Since June 2017, 414 victims have applied for settlements through the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program, which enables survivors of sexual abuse by priests or deacons of the diocese to seek financial compensation.

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“I am well aware that no amount of money will ever heal the scars of abuse, but this compensation program is a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends,” said Bishop DiMarzio when the IRCP was announced.

DiMarzio said that, during his time as a diocesan bishop in Camden and in Brooklyn and Queens, he has met with more than 50 survivors of sexual abuse.

“It is difficult to hear about the pain caused by the criminal behavior of members of the clergy.  I am well aware that no amount of money will ever heal the scars of abuse, but this program is a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends. We hope it will help with the healing process and bring survivors some element of healing.

The latest settlement comes just two weeks after New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of an investigation into the handling of sex abuse allegations.

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