|Altar Boys Settle Priest Sex Abuse Case WITH VIDEOS
By Erin Duffy
August 17, 2011
LAWRENCE — The Catholic Diocese of Trenton has paid more than $1 million to five men who said they were molested by a parish priest while serving as altar boys at Incarnation Church in Ewing.
Lawyers for the five men announced the seven-figure settlement during a press conference outside diocese headquarters yesterday.
In a statement, the diocese confirmed the payout, saying the abuse allegations against the Rev. Ronald Becker "were found to be credible."
"These individuals cannot get their childhoods back," said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney representing the men. "Father Becker molested them and stole their childhoods."
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Becker, now deceased, served as pastor of Incarnation Church. There, he allegedly molested the five victims, then altar boys between the ages of 11 and 16.
The abuse stretched across a decade, from 1972 to 1984, according to Garabedian. Victims were molested over periods ranging from six months to four years at the church, the rectory and on trips to places such as Washington, D.C.
"Father Becker knew no boundaries," he said. "He was a sexual deviant, a social deviant and he did not care about children."
The five victims will each receive $200,000 from the diocese and split $25,000 for therapy costs.
The men began coming forward in 2008 and began mediation with the diocese approximately six months ago. The settlement was reached in June and contains no admission of guilt or liability on the part of the diocese.
Otis Roberts said he was an 11-year-old at Incarnation School when the abuse began.
Now a 45-year-old industrial plant supervisor in Pennsylvania, Roberts said he blocked out the memory for much of his life.
Then he read an article about Jenni Franz, a niece of Becker's who said the priest assaulted her throughout much of her childhood.
The memories of his own abuse came flooding back.
In the article about Franz, "the diocese stated it was a family issue, not a church issue," Roberts said. "As you can see today, it's a church issue."
Speaking haltingly as rain drizzled down, Roberts said he's struggled with drinking and depression in the more than three decades since the abuse ended.
"I've often wondered why I am the way I am," he said. "I'm not very happy or motivated. I was robbed of my life."
He said the money won't solve his problems. What he really wanted was an apology from the diocese, not a settlement.
"But the money will help my kids," he said.
Becker was first accused of "inappropriate conduct" in 1989, the diocese said, but was not charged with any crime. He was removed from parish life, sent to a medical facility for treatment and transferred to an administrative position within the diocese that precluded him from having contact with children.
Becker was stripped of his priesthood in 2002, when a zero-policy charter on child abuse was adopted by the Catholic Church. He was later arrested and indicted for the abuse of his niece and died in 2009, before the criminal case wrapped up
Bob Hoatson, the co-founder of Road to Recovery, an organization aiding victims of clergy sex abuse, yesterday called on the diocese to disclose more about abusers.
"It's time the Diocese of Trenton took proactive measures and started to reach out to victims," Hoatson said. "Why didn't they go before the public and say we know this man is a serial pedophile, we know he injured a lot of you, please come forward?"
According to the website Bishop Accountability, which tracks abuse claims, lawsuits and other data related to clergy abuse, the diocese has spent $926,000 on victim costs and settlements. The diocese would not confirm the figure or comment yesterday beyond its initial statement.
An outreach notice for victims of abuse is available on the diocese website, in its newspaper and on parish bulletins. A 24-hour abuse hotline can be reached at (888) 296-2965.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.