|Sex Abuse Victim Says He Forgives Priest
By Phil Ray
April 18, 2008
The Ohio man at the center of a 21-year-old sexual abuse case settled this week by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown says he forgives the priest who abused him.
"I don't hate Father [Francis] Luddy. I pray he gets better," said Michael Hutchison, 39, who Thursday discussed the court battle that began in June 1987.
Fourteen years ago, a Blair County jury sided with Hutchison against the diocese and Luddy after a 16-week trial.
The legal battle focused on sexual abuse by priests in the local diocese long before it became a national issue.
Hutchison said he wanted to thank the jury for believing his story of abuse by Luddy, who was not only his priest, but also his godfather.
He said his family has stood "absolutely 101 percent behind me."
"I honestly believe in my heart, my family were victims, too," he said.
Hutchison no longer attends the Roman Catholic Church but has recently turned back to God and attends services.
He hated God at one point but realizes that what happened to him was not God's fault.
The abuse he experienced has resulted in severe problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and his ability to work is impeded by those problems, he said.
He does volunteer work at a homeless shelter.
The money from the civil case enables him to receive mental health treatment.
"I am getting intensive psychiatric treatment. I don't even drink anymore," he said.
His goals in life now center around helping children who have been abused.
Hutchison would like to build a home for abused children in Altoona, although he doesn't want to live here.
"I want to go around to schools and let the kids know if they are ever hurt like that, they don't have to hold it in. It will destroy your mind," he said.
Hutchison expressed high regard for his Altoona attorney, Richard Serbin, saying "God was by our side, and that's why [the case] turned out the way it did."
Since the local jury returned its verdict, the diocese paid out $2.7 million to Hutchison, with the last payment of $579,000 made this week.
Serbin was not available for comment Thursday.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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