The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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More Sex Abuse Victims End Lawsuits Against St. Louis Archdiocese
Church Admits Spending $1.6 Million Of Its Own Funds In Last Year
Civil Suits Against Two Priests Settled For First Time
Catholics Should Push For Straight Answers About Finances
Only 1 of the 5 Molesters Are In Prison, So Kids Remain At Risk, SNAP Says
Eight more individuals who were sexually abused by six local Catholic clerics have settled their civil molestation lawsuits against the St. Louis archdiocese. The portion paid by the archdiocese totals $267,500.
Three of the priests have received little attention and this is believed to be the first time cases against either of them have been settled. They include Fr. Joseph Lessard, Fr. Richard Lause and ex-priest Donald Straub.
The other two - Robert Yim and Michael McGrath - were recently defrocked and have faced multiple accusers. One -- Fr. Romano Ferraro -- is serving a life sentence for molesting a boy in Massachusetts. He came to St. Louis for "treatment" at one of the local centers for pedophile priests.
According to the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper, "Since January 2004, the mediation process has resulted in the settlement of 31 cases at a total of $2,399,300. Approximately $742,000 was recovered from an insurance carrier."
"That means that over $1.6 million has likely come from parishioners' generosity," said David Clohessy, national director SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). "We hope local Catholics will push for a complete accounting of where these funds come from."
Church officials repeatedly claim that no monies for sex abuse costs come from weekly parish collections.
Because the victims filed civil lawsuits, each of the molester's names have been made public.
"Archbishop Burke and his PR team should be honest about this process. It's not 'charity.' It's a business decision by church leaders," said Clohessy. "Few, if any, of these brave victims would have achieved closure and justice had they not filed lawsuits and found the courage to speak up."
"We hope this helps relieve some of the horrific pain each of these innocent victims suffered and still suffer," said Clohessy. "No settlement, however, can restore the shattered trust, stolen innocence, and damaged self-esteem of individuals who have been violated in unimaginable ways by trusted priests, brothers and nuns."
Barbara Dorris, SNAP's local St. Louis chapter leader, said she also admires the courage of those who have come forward. "It's easier and feels safer to deny or minimize your pain, and stay trapped in shame and self-blame," she said. "Every single victim who has broken his or her silence deserves the gratitude of every single St. Louis Catholic. These victims have made the church safer, and all of society safer, because of their bravery."
While confident that the agreement will help victims move toward closure, SNAP leaders urge victims who have settled to keep going to therapy and support group meetings. "There is no magic pill or cure-all that suddenly ends the alcoholism, depression, nightmares, insomnia, eating disorders and other long term effects of these terrible betrayals," said Dorris. "Sadly, "settlement' does not equal "recovery.'"
Only one of the molesting clergy is now behind bars. "Locking up molesters is the only way to really keep kids safe," Dorris said. "We hope police and prosecutors work even harder to pursue these criminals and those who have helped shield them."
"We especially hope that women and men assaulted by Fr. Michael McGrath keep up the pressure for prosecution," said Clohessy. "At this point, we consider him the most dangerous St. Louis priest, although Straub may have as many or more victims."
SNAP hopes this action will prompt "others who are wounded to step forward, disclose their secret, and start their recovery. Dozens and dozens of other victims have still never told their families or the police or a therapist. Hopefully, today's news will encourage at least one of them to end their isolation and pick up the phone," said Clohessy.
Archbishop Burke's responsibility doesn't end here, Clohessy stressed. "Church leaders recruited, trained, educated, hired, supervised and often transferred and covered up for these molesters. Burke has a duty to do everything he can to urge witnesses and victims to contact police and to warn the public about these dangerous men."
Attorneys who represent or represented the priests include Marty Hadican (Fr. McGrath) and Frank Fabbri (Fr. Yim).
The settlements are with the archdiocese, not with the individual perpetrators.
Attorneys for the victims include Ken Chackes and Susan Carlson of St. Louis, Rebecca Randles of Kansas City and Pat Noaker of St. Paul MN.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests