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  Dioceses Settle Abuse Claims for $1.5 Million

By Jeff Brumley
The Times-Union [Florida]
September 27, 2005

The Catholic Diocese of Orlando and the Jacksonville-based Diocese of St. Augustine paid a combined $1.5 million in May to settle sexual abuse claims involving two priests who molested three altar boys "countless times" during the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to an attorney for the victims.

Diocesan officials deliberately ignored the actions of the Revs. Vernon F. Uhran and Hubert Reason while their abuses were occurring, said the victims' Miami-based lawyer, Adam Horowitz.

Reason is deceased and Uhran is living in the Orlando area but is no longer in active ministry, Horowitz said.

The settlement remained a secret on the First Coast until it was referred to in a Sept. 12 news release announcing the filing of two new sexual molestation lawsuits against the Orlando Diocese.

Those lawsuits seek a total of $10 million on behalf of two additional former child victims of Uhran.

The May settlement came approximately three months after the three men came forward claiming "abuse of the most horrific nature" while they were children, Horowitz said.

Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, a spokeswoman for the St. Augustine Diocese, said the settlement wasn't announced "because the alleged victims and the allegations that were made against the priests were down in the Diocese of Orlando."

"It was announced publicly in the Diocese of Orlando," she said. Although some of the abuse in the settled case centered on Uhran's and Reason's former parishes in Central Florida, the St. Augustine Diocese was responsible because it covered that region until the Orlando Diocese was created in June 1968, Horowitz said.

Horowitz said it could have been helpful to any other victims of the two priests if the diocese had at least announced the names of the priests in the settlement.

"If they are truly interested in helping victims, that would be a call out to other victims," he said.

The victims, then ages 11 to 15, "were targeted for a particular reason: They were from devoutly Catholic families and as altar boys, they had placed their trust in the institution," Horowitz said.

The alleged abuse occurred in numerous locations including rectories, hotel rooms, on spiritual retreats and even at a beach, he said.

"There were lots of road trips they went on," Horowitz said Monday. "They went to summer camps where the priests were directors. They were altar boys -- there was constant access to them."

At the time, Uhran was the pastor at the Church of the Resurrection in Lakeland. Reason was pastor at St. Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Horowitz said.

Uhran and Reason compared notes on the victims and the sex acts they would participate in, Horowitz said.

St. Augustine Bishop Victor Galeone was out of town and unavailable for comment Monday, Bagg-Morgan said. She referred other inquiries to a spokeswoman with the Orlando Diocese. The Times-Union was unable to reach that spokeswoman Monday.

The St. Augustine Diocese has settled at least two other sexual abuse cases in the past year.

One of them involved a now-deceased Irish priest who molested at least three children in two Jacksonville parishes during the 1960s.

The other involved a priest who abused children in the same period. The diocese has not publicly identified the priest or parish where he served.

 
 

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