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Lawyer for Church Says He Hid His Own Sexual Abuse by Priest

The New York Times
Published: November 25, 2003

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George E. Cire, a Houston lawyer who represented a family that sued the church in 2000, said: "Certainly he was not overly sympathetic to the victims. Not that he was overly confrontational with them, but he just didn't give in."

"My guess is he took such a hard stance just to cover up any sympathy he may have been feeling for the victims," Mr. Cire said.

Mr. Scamardo said his anguish built gradually. First there was the gray-haired woman. Then a victim he had met committed suicide. In June 2002, with the scandal in Boston propelling victims forward, Mr. Scamardo said he got an e-mail message from a man who said he had been abused by Dan Delaney — the priest in the hotel room.

Mr. Scamardo said it dawned on him then: a man abused by a priest as a teenage boy had spent most of his legal career defending priests who abused teenage boys.

By August 2002, Mr. Scamardo said, he was thinking about suicide. A victim walked out of a mediation session, and Mr. Scamardo said he felt "like the enemy."

In September, he wrote long letters to Bishops Fiorenza and Aymond revealing his abuse. He asked Bishop Aymond to help pay for a month at a residential treatment center north of Dallas. He stayed nearly three months, which cost the Austin diocese $33,443.

He went back to work, but felt awkward, he said . While he had been a frequent visitor to Bishop Fiorenza's office, now he could not get in, he said. He declared his intention to resign, and asked for a little time.

Meanwhile, regarding it as a friendly negotiation, Mr. Scamardo wrote the bishop of Austin suggesting a settlement of $437,500 to cover medical bills for him and his family, lost income, pain and suffering.

In a March 25 response, which Mr. Scamardo shared with The Times, Bishop Aymond, who began serving in Austin in 2001, apologized profusely and said he wanted to help. He reminded Mr. Scamardo that his claim was beyond the statute of limitations, and countered with $50,000 plus medical expenses for 12 months.

Since insurance would not cover it, the bishop warned, "any financial settlement would be taken from the money that is given by the parishioners on Sunday in the collection."

Mr. Scamardo, angry and offended, began looking for a lawyer. Within 10 days, the Diocese of Galveston-Houston hired a new general counsel. Mr. Scamardo quit in May.

On Oct. 29, he signed a settlement with the Diocese of Austin for $250,000. He has opened his own law practice in Houston. He says he does not think he can emotionally handle sexual abuse cases but may serve as an expert witness in trials.

He said he prayed and believed in God "more than ever." But the last time he went to church was on the Feast of the Pentecost in June. "I have a lot of grief because my whole belief system in the church is just gone," he said.

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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests