Church Settles Second Abuse Case

By Mike Gordon
Honolulu Advertiser [Hawaii]
July 31, 2004

For the second time this year, Catholic Church officials in Hawai'i have agreed to a confidential court settlement of a sex-abuse case.

Unnamed plaintiffs identified only as K.J. and her two sons sued the church and a former employee who admitted to molesting one of the boys.

Manuel Feliciano, a sacristan who trained altar boys, pleaded guilty in the summer of 2000 to molesting one of the boys while he was employed at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Honolulu. The suit was filed that October.

The settlement, agreed to in February by the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, contradicts a belief by U.S. bishops that confidential settlements for such scandals will be interpreted as hush money. The diocese agreed two years ago that it would enter into confidential settlements only if there were serious and substantial reasons.

"That was the case here," said church spokesman Patrick Downes. "The diocese would have preferred that the case be settled openly so that everyone would know how it was settled. But the plaintiffs requested it be confidential."

Downes said attorneys for the plaintiffs had written to the church in February and said their clients "believe that to disclose the terms and amount of the settlement may result in grave and serious consequences to them."

Attorney Mark Davis, who represents the family, said it had been a difficult period for everyone. "The family is pleased with the outcome and very eager to move on with their lives and put this incident behind them," he said today.

The suit alleged that the boys, now teenagers, were molested by Feliciano in 1994 and 1995, and that he used his position in the church to persuade them to commit sexual acts.

It said the boys, who have since moved to the Mainland, suffer from emotional problems. Both have spent time in a residential treatment facility for behavioral problems and the older boy has spent time in a residential offender program, the suit said.

The settlement also covers a 2002 countersuit in which the Catholic Church said the boys' mother was trying to blame the church for their problems, although she had entrusted them to Feliciano, allowing the boys to stay overnight at his apartment.

Last month, church officials agreed to another confidential settlement of a sex-abuse lawsuit that claimed two boys were molested by a priest.

The suit was filed in May 2002 on behalf of Darick Agasiva and Fa'amoana Purcell, who claimed the Rev. Roberto de Otero had molested them in the 1980s in the rectory at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Hawai'i.


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