26th Man Settles with Fort Worth Diocese over Molestation Accusations
By Darren Barbee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
June 15, 2012
A man identified as Doe 26 is the latest to reach a settlement with the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese over accusations that he was sexually abused by Monsignor James Reilly, a chronic molester.
The amount of the settlement, reached through mediation, was not disclosed at the victim's request, the diocese said. No lawsuit was filed.
Doe 26 was a fourth-grader and altar boy at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington when the molestation began, said his attorney, Tahira Khan Merritt of Dallas.
That was in 1978 when he was 9, and the abuse continued until about 1981, she said.
The 26 reflects the number of Reilly's accusers Merritt has represented, who all have settled their claims, Merritt said. She said she is representing a 27th accusing the priest, who died in 1999. All the accusers are male.
"As we have seen in the recent [Jerry] Sandusky case involving Penn State, organizations must be held accountable," Merritt said. "The focus should be on helping victims rather than hiding from scandal."
In a statement, Bishop Kevin Vann, leader of the diocese, expressed his deep sorrow for any sexual abuse by Reilly that the victim may have suffered.
Vann, who became bishop in 2005, said the diocese addresses allegations of abuse as quickly as possible.
"I am committed to ensuring that the Diocese's policies are adhered to so we can prevent future tragedy such as that which has befallen the victims of abuse," he said.
Diocesan officials said they have sought victims of abuse in the parish where Reilly was assigned. He was assigned to St. Maria Goretti from 1969 through 1987. He then retired and moved to Philadelphia.
The diocese said it wants anyone who has seen or suffered sexual abuse by anyone serving the church to come forward. A news release said victims should contact the Texas Department of Family Protective Services or report abuse to the diocese.
Merritt emphatically urged victims of abuse to contact law enforcement, rather than the church.
"We've seen time and time again, when victims go to the diocese ... it doesn't go anywhere. All they do is erode their rights under civil and criminal law," she said. "Unfortunately, victims can fall prey to believing the church will 'do the right thing,' only to learn very hard lessons that by turning to the church first, their legal rights are compromised."
Vann told the victim that he prays that healing and reconciliation can be achieved.
Darren Barbee, 817-390-7126