In one of the largest known settlement payouts for sex abuse within the Catholic Church to date, the Diocese of Brooklyn confirmed Sept. 18 that the diocese and another defendant would pay $27.5 million to four victims of abuse at the hands of a volunteer at St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s Church in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.
While some reports have claimed the individual in question, Angelo Serrano, was an employee of the school at the time, the Diocese of Brooklyn has contested those claims noting that he was a volunteer at the time of the abuse.
Serrano was found responsible for raping four victims between the ages of 8 and 12 from 2003 to 2009. The abuse did not take place on church property.
According to published reports, a priest saw the abuse, but didn’t report it. The two priests at the parish were named co-defendants in the case.
The victims have chosen to remain anonymous in the settlement process.
“The Diocese of Brooklyn has concluded litigation in which it highly contested its role in the sexual abuse of four adolescents,” said Adriana Rodriguez, Acting Director of Communications and Press Secretary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, in a statement.
Abuse at Private Apartment
“The diocese and another defendant have settled these lawsuits brought by the four claimants who were sexually abused by Angelo Serrano at his private apartment many years ago,” she continued.
“Mr. Serrano was a volunteer worker at a local parish; he was not clergy or an employee of the Diocese or parish. He is currently serving a prison term for his crimes. For three of the claimants, another defendant is contributing a significant portion of the settlement. The Diocese endeavored to reach this settlement in a way that compensates Mr. Serrano’s victims and respects their privacy.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn is paying out nearly $17.4 of the $27.5 million in this settlement to the four claimants. Insurance is covering the diocese’s portion of the settlement.
The years of abuse allegedly occurred in the years after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) instituted its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, commonly known as the “Dallas Charter,” which was drafted after the devastating revelations that same year of decades of sexual abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston, Mass.
Since then, the U.S. Catholic Church’s policy of “zero tolerance” of priests or lay individuals who have abused minors has been considered the gold standard for many other dioceses and institutions around the globe, however the current settlement in Brooklyn could lead to scrutiny as to whether a breakdown in the system occurred.
Catholics throughout the United States have been rocked by a series of ongoing revelations regarding clerical sexual abuse in recent months.
In June, former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was credibly accused of having abused an altar boy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while serving as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in the 1970s.
Those disclosures were led by numerous reports of McCarrick’s ongoing abuse of seminarians that spanned five decades, leading Pope Francis to accept his resignation from the College of Cardinals in July.
Last month, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report documented over 1,000 cases of abuse at the hands of more than 300 abuser priests spanning seven decades.
The Pennsylvania report and the McCarrick saga has prompted new pledges of reform and transparency within the USCCB, with specific new measures to hold bishops accountable for potential cover-up of abuse.
Two weeks ago, Barbara Underwood, the Attorney General of New York, subpoenaed all eight dioceses within the state and announced she would conduct a systematic review of its handling of sexual abuse claims.
Vowed Full Cooperation
The Diocese of Brooklyn has vowed full cooperation with the investigation.
“We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for these claimants,” said Rodriguez’s statement on Tuesday.
“The Diocese remains committed to ensuring that its parishes, schools and youth programs remain safe and secure for the young people who are entrusted to our care,” she concluded.