MD--Huge clergy sex abuse settlement disclosed; Priest was in DC & MD
For immediate release: Wednesday, July 6, 2016
A victim of a notorious predator priest who spent time in DC and Maryland has settled with the predator’s Catholic supervisors for $4.5 million. We applaud this brave survivor for being brave enough to disclose his suffering, wise enough to seek justice in court and strong enough to endure a long process of litigation.
A settlement of this size only happens when Catholic officials are sitting on mountains of evidence that they repeatedly and callously put kids in harm’s way. Terrified of having this incriminating information surface in court or in public, they pull out their checkbooks and so do their insurers.
Fr. Wayland Yoder Brown is one of the most notorious child molesting clerics in the US. Even while he was a seminarian, then-Savannah Bishop Raymond Lessard was warned about Brown (yet ordained him anyway). In his very first assignment, in 1969, Fr. Brown’s bosses heard reports of his abuse. Yet for decades, they continued to hide his crimes and quietly transfer him to unsuspecting parishes where he kept on assaulting kids.
In the 1980s, he was secretly sent for treatment at St. Luke's, a church-run center in Maryland. In 2002, he pled guilty to abusing two boys in 1974 in Washington DC. Fr. Brown was sentenced to ten years in prison in Maryland and was released in 2008. In 2009, another civil suit against him settled for $4.24 million.
In his news release yesterday unilaterally announcing the settlement, Savannah Bishop Gregory Hartmayer made no mention of the possibility that there are others who were molested by Fr. Brown are still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. Shame on Bishop Hartmayer. He’s acting more like a cold-hearted CEO than a caring shepherd.
We call on Catholic bishops in Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina and the District of Columbia to use their vast resources to seek out and help other victims of Fr. Brown. They should use parish bulletins, church websites, pulpit announcements and news conferences to beg anyone with information or suspicions about this dangerous predator to step forward. And they should use these same resources to warn families who are near Brown now about him.
Earlier this year, we in SNAP released a long-secret, four-page transcript of a meeting of four top Georgia Catholic officials about law enforcement inquiries into alleged child sex crimes of Fr. Brown. During the meeting, Fr. Brown admits having “touched” boys. He also discloses that in one church assignment he “avoided that kind of thing” but in another he “did not” and admits taking an Albany boy on a trip to Atlanta. The boy’s mom later asked Fr. Brown to “end his relationship” with the child and that was “not an amicable resolution.”
The bishop tells the accused predator he’s gotten three calls from police in Richmond County about Fr. Brown and that “law enforcement officials in another county” are “seeking information about you.”
Years later, when Fr. Brown was being sentenced, a Georgia sheriff's sergeant said that the bishop “did not cooperate in a sex-abuse investigation of Brown in 1986 and that Fr. Brown could not be questioned because Lessard "sent him to an unknown location for an indefinite amount of time," according to the Washington Post.
Five individuals were at the 1986 meeting: then Savannah Bishop Lessard, then chancellor Fr. Jeremiah J. McCarthy, then vicar general Fr. William Simmons, diocesan defense lawyer Joseph Brennan and Fr. Brown.
Fr. Simmons is deceased. Bishop Lessard passed away in January.
Fr. Brown worked at Catholic churches in Savannah, Augusta, Moultrie, Camilla and Isle of Hope. He also worked at a Reidsville prison and at Augusta’s University Hospital and a church in Maryland. In 2004, he was defrocked.
No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)