|Oblates Settle Sex Abuse Suits, Release Names of Accused Priests
By Sean O'sullivan
The News Journal
August 4, 2011
Names of 12 Oblates accused of sexual abuse of minors
Video message about abuse settlement by Oblates' provincial
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales announced today that they have reached a $24.8 million settlement with survivors of priest sexual abuse.
The Oblates, who operate the Salesianum School in Wilmington, were one of four religious orders who did not participate in the recent $77 million settlement that the Diocese of Wilmington reached with 150 other clerical abuse victims last month.
The $24.8 million payment resolves 39 outstanding civil lawsuits brought under the Delaware Child Victim's act against the religious order.
Most of that settlement money will be paid into a trust fund for victims that was set up during U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings involving the diocese and 37 of the victims will receive payments from that fund according to a formula crafted by a committee of abuse survivors. Two will receive direct payment from the Oblates, according to attorneys.
All 150 victims who settled earlier with the diocese will also receive additional payments as a result of this settlement with the Oblates, and share in that 24.8 million, according to attorneys.
In addition, the Oblates also agreed to significant non-monetary terms that include releasing a list of 12 priests in the order who have either admitted to sexual abuse or had allegations of sexual abuse substantiated against them.
This is similar to what was done by the late Wilmington Bishop Michael Saltarelli in 2006 in regard to priests in the Diocese of Wilmington. Until this settlement, according to Wilmington attorney Thomas Neuberger, the Oblates had refused to release such a list.
The Very Rev. James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates, issued a statement of apology today on behalf of the Oblates "for anything that an Oblate has done to violate a trust or harm a person."
"While I am pleased that these suits are settled, I recognize that to achieve our mission of healing and reconciliation, there is more work to be done," said Greenfield, "We hope that through authentic conversations with those who have been hurt, we can reach this goal together."
Attorney Bart Dalton, who was part of the legal team that represented 23 of the plaintiffs, said he was gratified they were able to reach what he felt was a fair resolution for his clients.
“None of this happens without the courage of the survivors,” Dalton said, adding he was also grateful to the Delaware Legislature for passing the Delaware Child Victims Act and the Oblates for “doing the right thing here,” particularly with the non-monetary settlement terms.
“We can say that children in all of these (Oblate) schools will be safer because of it, that is very important to our clients,” he said.
Neuberger, who represented 13 of the plaintiffs, also touted the non-monetary terms of the settlement but he pointedly declined to say he was “happy” with the end result because the new measures to protect children only apply to the Oblates in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
"I took half a loaf," Neuberger said, adding that during negotiations the Oblates indicated they would only settle with the Delaware and Pennsylvania plaintiffs if the world wide order was dropped from the litigation.
"The world wide Oblates do not think enough about the safety of your children to adopt rigid policies to protect them, outside Delaware and Pennsylvania," Neuberger said. Neuberger noted that one of the Oblates named in lawsuits, and whose name is on the list released today, was transferred from Maryland to India to work with children in an orphanage. "We haven't protected children in India or Germany. I would have hoped we could have done that," he said.
But he noted that the Delaware-Pennsylvania Province of the Oblates covers about half of the order's 440 priests. "So, better to save some kids than none," he said.
With the contribution from the Oblates that brings the total amount of money dedicated to the trust fund for victims of clerical sexual abuse to $102,287,500.
Separate from that fund, two survivors who sued the Oblates and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will receive $1.27 million, according to Neuberger.
Late last month, the Diocese of Wilmington resolved more than 150 civil cases pending against the diocese and its parishes by contributing $77.4 million to the fund, along with a number of non-monetary terms, including adopting new policies to protect children.
In his statement, Greenfield said the Oblates are "fully accredited" by the Praesidium, a Texas-based independent national leader in abuse risk management, whose standards include background screening. He said the Oblates are in full compliance with those standards. "We are committed to the restoration of trust," he said.
Contact Sean O’Sullivan at 324-2777 or email@example.com
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