settles abuse cases
Church to pay $1M to 10 alleged sex victims
Saturday, October 09, 2004
BY TED SHERMAN - Star-Ledger Staff
The Archdiocese of Newark will pay out $1.07 million to settle
claims by 10 people who charged they were sexually abused as
children by nine Catholic priests.
The settlement -- in some cases involving allegations decades
old -- does not admit guilt or presume innocence on the part
of anyone, according to church officials, who said they wanted
to avoid protracted litigation as well as promote reconciliation
All court processes are complex and impersonal, and no one
would have benefited had these matters proceeded through the
courts," Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said in a statement.
"Recognizing that the court process would further lengthen
the ordeal for all involved and delay any true healing for
these men and women, we chose to pursue a settlement."
The Newark Archdiocese, the state's largest, serves 1.3 million
Catholics in Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen counties.
It marked the first public settlement by the archdiocese
since the sexual abuse scandal first rocked the Catholic Church
across the country, although earlier this year, the archdiocese
reported that it had paid out $2.2 million in settlements,
legal fees, counseling for victims, treatments for offenders
and contributions to victims and their families since 1950.
Diocesan officials would not provide the names of the clergymen
involved in the cases just settled.
The attorney who represented the plaintiffs, Gregory G. Gianforcaro
of Phillipsburg, said no one was declaring victory in the
"While it is true that my clients, who were sexually
abused as children within the Newark Archdiocese, have settled
their respective claims and received compensation for the
damages they have sustained, there are no winners here, as
these men and this woman will forever live with the scars
of having been victims of childhood sexual abuse."
Gianforcaro, who is still battling with the Paterson Archdiocese
over more than two dozen other sexual abuse cases, said he
hoped that others would follow in the footsteps of the Newark
"The Catholic Church's mission is to save souls and
to assist those who have been harmed, not to turn their backs
or even attack victims of abuse," said the attorney.
A woman who brought accusations against three of the priests,
Marigrace Labella, was part of the settlement and agreed to
be identified. She said yesterday that nothing could undo
the harm done to her and other victims.
"The settlement process helps prove that when victims
find the courage to come forward like I did, even against
all odds, they can sometimes find justice," she said,
urging others to come forward and seek help.
Two of the priests she charged had sexually abused her at
a Union County church youth group more than 20 years ago have
been permanently removed from ministry, which means they are
not permitted to dress or act in any way as priests, according
to the diocese.
A third priest tied to the same case and the settlement remains
in ministry but is no longer with the diocese, a spokesman
said. Two years ago, the Union County prosecutor closed an
investigation of that priest after finding that the charges
against him had no credibility.
No longer a member of the Catholic Church, and now living
in North Carolina, Labella said the legal battle was a tough
road for her.
"It's easy to crumble or turn away. You get more wrapped
up in litigation than recovery," she remarked. "But
I knew if I stood by my truth, truth wins out."
Newark diocese spokesman Jim Goodness said of the six other
priests charged in the lawsuits, three are no longer in ministry,
one is retired, one deceased and one other remains an active
priest. None of those who have been removed from ministry
have been laicized, or defrocked.
Meanwhile, a group of abuse victims, the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, said the Newark Archdiocese settlement
should only be the first step toward resolving a legacy of
abuse and cover-up.
"Archbishop Myers has been woefully inadequate in his
response to victims and to the atrocities that occurred in
the archdiocese," said New Jersey SNAP Chapter Coordinator
Kevin Kingree. "His agreement to this settlement is a
welcome development, but it requires follow-up with real compassion
and Christian outreach."
Kingree urged Myers to visit all of the parishes affected
by child sexual abuse in the lawsuits to seek other victims
and encourage them to report to the police, name the perpetrators
and disclose their current locations and release the personnel
"Despite the poor record of Archbishop Myers on clergy
abuse matters, we are prepared to join him in beginning a
new era of openness for the church and healing for victims
of clergy sexual abuse. Let's use these legal settlements
as an opportunity for real outreach to other victims and for
real disclosure and openness to being in the church in New
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