Diocese Paid Out $3.7M To 6 Victims
The Diocese of Scranton and four of its priests agreed to pay more than $3.7 million in damages to compensate victims who alleged priests sexually abused them, according to a statewide investigating grand jury report.
The diocese paid
$3.745 million to six victims. Three priests negotiated settlements totaling $49,000 and another priest agreed to pay a victim $700 a month until the priest died, according to the report.
The report, released Tuesday, says 301 religious leaders abused more than 1,000 victims dating back to the 1940s in six Roman Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania. The report includes 59 who served in the Diocese of Scranton while the diocese itself named 70.
The bulk of the diocese’s payments came in one case — a $3 million settlement worked out in November 2007 for a former altar boy abused for almost five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s by defrocked priest Albert M. Liberatore Jr. The abuse, which happened at St. Joseph’s Church in Duryea, began when the victim was 14 years old. Liberatore pleaded guilty in 2005 and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.
The victim sued in 2004 and the diocese settled the case shortly after a federal trial began. Insurance covered the $3 million settlement, the diocese said at the time.
The diocese also spent an unspecified amount of money counseling for victims — in one case, art therapy — and therapy for priests, according to the grand jury report.
In one case, the diocese agreed to pay Catholic school tuition for the son of a female victim while the Jesuit order of priests agreed to pay tuitions for the children of another victim, according to the report.
The overall totals are based solely on amounts listed in the grant jury report.
Bill Genello, a diocese spokesman, did not dispute the amount, but noted none of the settlements happened under the current bishop, The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera.
The total settlement amount could be higher.
The report notes the diocese settled a suit filed by a victim of Philip Altavilla, a priest who charged in April 2014 with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1998. Neither the report nor the lawsuit file disclose the amount. A Lackawanna County judge dismissed the charges against Altavilla, ruling the statute of limitations expired, but Altavilla admitted the abuse to diocese officials, according to the report.
The diocese also settled a 1991 lawsuit against Robert N. Caparelli, who was accused of abuse by multiple boys since the late 1960s and finally charged in 1991 with molestation. One victim sued the diocese, which fought back for several years but eventually settled for an amount undisclosed in the grand jury report.
The diocese didn’t always show a willingness to pay damages.
In the case of one priest, Joseph Bonner, the diocese received a letter in May 2002 from a lawyer whose male client accused Bonner of sexually molesting him in 1975 when he was a boy and the priest was assigned to a church in Muncy in Lycoming County. The diocese’s lawyer advised the victim’s lawyer the diocese wouldn’t pay anything, “had no responsibility for the alleged conduct” and the victim should see Bonner for compensation.
The report says “a settlement was reached and the victim received $25,000” without Bonner admitting to molesting the boy.
The diocese also won one lawsuit filed by a man who accused a priest, Francis T. Brennan, of abusing him when he was an altar boy in 1966.
A Lackawanna County Court judge ruled the man waited too long to sue.
Another case when a priest paid a settlement began in September 2010, when a 64-year-old man told the diocese a priest named Joseph Bucolo sexually abused him when he was 8 years old. At the time of that abuse, according to a list of Bucolo’s assignments, he was at Most Precious Blood Church in Hazleton.
About three weeks after notifying the diocese, the victim met with Bucolo, who admitted “he did wrong and asked for forgiveness.” Three months after that, Bucolo agreed to pay the man $20,000, according to the report.
In the other settlements, the diocese paid:
■ $380,000 to settle a case filed against the diocese and the Society of St. John, an order whose priests followed more traditional church rites. The family of a minor boy accused three priests — Carlos Urrutigoity, Eric Ensey and Christopher Clay — of sexually abusing the boy.
■ $250,000 to settle allegations that a priest from the Order of Holy Cross Province, Joseph B. Wilson, also known as Raphael Wilson, abused a boy. It is unclear from the report when the abuse happened, but it was apparently before Wilson was accepted into the diocese in 1994.
■ $75,000 to a woman who was still a minor when a priest, Thomas D. Skotek, impregnated her in the early 1980s and helped her get an abortion. The settlement was reached in 1989. When the woman ran into hardships in 2002, she contacted the diocese for help, but then obtained $4,000 from Skotek, according to the report.
■ $30,000 to a man who claimed a priest, Robert J. Gibson, sexually abused him in 1975 when the man was 14 years old. Back then, Gibson was administrator at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Brodheadsville in Monroe County, according to a list of his assignments in the grand jury report. Another victim complained Gibson abused him as a minor. Gibson admitted that happened and agreed to pay the victim $700 a month until he died.
■ $10,000 to the family of a boy abused by a priest, Francis G. Kulig, in 1979 when the boy was 12. Kulig split the year between two churches, Immaculate Conception in Scranton and St. John the Evangelist in Wilkes-Barre. The report does not say where the abuse happened.
Victims did not always ask for compensation.
A man in his late 30s told the diocese a priest named Ralph N. Ferraldo sexually abused him in 1982-1983 when he was 16 or 17 years old.
The victim said he didn’t want to expose Ferraldo or embarrass or sue the church.
“Instead, he revealed the abuse for the sake of reconciliation,” the grand jury report says.
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