Memphis Diocese Fires Back over Sex-Abuse Settlement
Officials Say They Dealt with Priest

By Lawrence Buser
Commercial Appeal
February 28, 2009

Although it agreed to pay $1.55 million for its part of a $2 million settlement in a priest sex-abuse case this week, the Catholic Diocese of Memphis said Friday it acted responsibly in investigating and dealing with the offending priest.

Rev. John Geaney, a diocesan spokesman, took issue with the plaintiff's attorney, who said the case of Juan Carlos Duran "fit the national profile" of priests who remain in the priesthood and are moved from place to place once they are caught.

"The Diocese of Memphis made no such admission during the negotiations of the settlement," said Geaney, who said the media have not accurately reported church efforts to deal with sexual abuse.

"In the case of Juan Carlos Duran, once the allegation of sexual abuse was known and proved credible, Bishop (Terry) Steib suspended the priest and saw to his removal from the Diocese. His community, the Dominican priests, sent him to a hospital in Maryland that is well known for its ability to treat addictive sexual behavior. Juan Carlos Duran eventually left the priesthood."

Plaintiff's attorney Gary K. Smith said Thursday that although Duran had been at only one place in Memphis, the Church of the Ascension in North Memphis in 2000, he had been in St. Louis, Miami, Panama and another country, leaving complaints or suspicions in his wake.

The Memphis Catholic Diocese and the Dominican order, of which Duran was a member, agreed to pay $2 million in the case involving a 14-year-old boy who was abused in 2000 by Duran.

David Brown, Memphis coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said all but three of more than a dozen such lawsuits in the area have been settled and that most settlements, including those reached without a suit being filed, are confidential.

He said that while the Duran case may seem to be a large settlement, the harm to the victim remains forever.

"Is $2 million enough to let me abuse your children?" asked Brown, a paralegal, private investigator and victim of priest abuse.

"There's no amount of money that can ever compensate these victims when they've been abused by a priest," he said.

"It's soul rape or soul murder and I don't know that you recover from it. For every one of me, I can introduce you to 50 others who are basket cases and that's shameful. They need to be doing more. They show more compassion for the pedophile priests than they do for the victims of those pedophile priests. That's shameful."

Geaney, however, says the Memphis Diocese is not given enough credit for its efforts to correct problems.

He said the diocese is in full compliance with the 2002 U.S. Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth, has established an Office for Child and Youth Protection, has promoted sexual-abuse awareness programs and has created an independent Review Board to investigate alleged cases of sexual abuse.


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