Honolulu Diocese Settles Abuse Suit:
Two Men Had Claimed a Priest Kissed and Groped Them in 1986

By Mary Adamski
Honolulu Star-Bulletin [Hawaii]
July 22, 2004

Two Oahu men who claimed a priest sexually abused them when they were altar boys in 1986 have reached a settlement agreement with the Honolulu Catholic diocese.

No information will be made public about the settlement, which was filed with Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna last month, attorneys from both sides said yesterday.

"All I can tell you is it has been resolved," said David Gierlach, attorney for Darick Agasiva and Fa'amoana Purcell.

"The settlement is confidential at the request of plaintiffs," said Stephen Dyer, attorney for the diocese.

He said the civil suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be filed again.

"If it were the diocese's choice, you would know everything," said local church spokesman Patrick Downes.

The suit accused the Rev. Roberto DeOtero of kissing the boys and touching their genitals while they were altar boys at St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi.

DeOtero left Hawaii in 1987 and lives in California, according to diocesan records. He moved to Hawaii in 1984 and left three years later to become a military chaplain. Former Honolulu Bishop Francis DiLorenzo removed him from public ministry in 1993 because of a Navy complaint involving sexual misconduct with a minor.

The suit was filed in May 2002, five months after the sexual abuse scandal within the U.S. Catholic Church first arose with charges against a priest in Boston. Gierlach said at that time that national publicity had awakened memories of childhood abuse that the two men had suppressed.

A Honolulu church official acknowledged that the confidential agreement is contrary to a commitment to openness espoused by American bishops in response to spreading reports of abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops in several cities.

"We wanted nothing to be secret. When you settle something and don't make it public, it is like you have something to hide," said the Rev. Joseph Grimaldi, diocesan judicial vicar. "We are clear about the (U.S. bishops') charter.

"The settlement specifically requires of us that no details be mentioned," Grimaldi said.

In October 2002, McKenna denied a diocesan motion to seal all documents in the case after Gierlach argued "what (the church) has done should not be shielded on an umbrella basis from public scrutiny."

Attorneys for First Insurance Co. were present at the June 29 settlement conference before McKenna. Grimaldi said First Insurance was the diocese's insurer at the time of the alleged abuse.

If the settlement involved payment of damages -- by the church or its insurance company -- it would be the first money paid to a plaintiff in such a case here. The Catholic Herald reported that the diocese paid $9,000 to a psychiatrist for counseling a victim of sexual abuse about 10 years ago.

Also at the settlement conference was DeOtero's attorney Jeff Portnoy, who is out of town and could not be reached yesterday.

Grimaldi said that although DeOtero no longer lives here nor is allowed to function as a priest, "he is still a member of the diocese," which provides for his living expenses and medical coverage, as it does for three other men removed from service by DiLorenzo.

Hawaii's former bishop, who was recently reassigned to Richmond, Va., joined the other American bishops in establishing the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." On the subject of court suits alleging clergy sexual misconduct, it states:

"The dioceses/eparchies will not enter into confidentiality agreements except for grave and substantial reasons brought forward by the victim/survivor and noted in the text of the agreement."

Four other sex abuse civil suits against the Honolulu diocese are pending.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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