Albany Diocese Paid out $225,000 to Victim
Albany -- Payments Came after the Recipient Renewed Efforts to Find Priests He Claimed Abused Him As a Boy, Attorney Says
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
January 20, 2003
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany paid more than $225,000 last year to a man who claimed priests sexually abused him when he was a boy.
The man's attorney, John Aretakis, said Bishop Howard J. Hubbard repeatedly told the victim not to go public with his claims of abuse because he was bound by a 1994 confidentiality agreement the victim signed when he received his first settlement payment, for $150,000, from the church.
In April, the victim began intensive therapy with the head of a diocesan counseling program, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, and he at no time asked for additional payments, Aretakis said.
"He (the victim) was trying to find the names and identification and present locations of all of his abusers. And when he started pressing and pressing, they started throwing money at him because he wouldn't give up his search," Aretakis said.
The victim was not represented by an attorney when the church provided two payments totaling $225,000, Aretakis said. In both cases, the church provided no documentation, release forms or any other kind of paperwork in connection with the payments, Aretakis said.
The man and church officials disagree on whether the money was intended to keep him quiet after he said he was sexually abused by the Rev. David Bentley, or to help out a needy church member, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The payments began weeks after Hubbard announced an end to confidential settlements, which he said prevented victims from speaking freely about their experiences and gave the appearance that the church was covering up clerical abuse.
Hubbard acknowledged that abuse in apology letters sent to the victim last year.
Bentley already was on inactive duty when he was permanently banned from active ministry last year, along with five other Albany-area priests.
Among payments to the victim last year was a $150,000 check from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany to pay for a house, according to a review of the checks and other documents by The New York Times, as well as interviews with diocesan officials. The man received an earlier payment of $75,000 for a mobile home when he was about to be evicted.
Hubbard said in a statement that it was wrong to discuss assistance given to victims, and that to do so causes further harm.
The Rev. Kenneth Doyle, a diocese spokesman, said the victim's claim that the bishop was trying to silence him "absolutely untrue." Hubbard wanted to "try and comfort the victim and get any immediate help for the victim and provide any assistance to make life more livable and begin the path toward healing," he said.
Doyle said that the victim was not barred from talking about the payments. The diocese did not disclose the assistance because it would have been improper, he said.
The Albany diocese has said it paid people who were sexually abused by its priests a total of $2.3 million over the past 25 years. Associated Press and staff writer Andrew Tilghman contributed to this report.
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