Diocese Settlement: $500,000
A Former Altar Boy Had Accused Officials of Ignoring His Molestation Charges
By Patricia Walsh and James Roland
Sarasota Herald-Tribune [Florida]
June 10, 1999
The Catholic Diocese of Venice has agreed to pay $500,000 to a former Port Charlotte altar boy who was molested by a priest and a boy's choir director in order to settle a suit that claimed diocesan officials failed to prevent the abuse, an attorney says.
The diocese also agreed to pay for any future psychological counseling for the former altar boy, who is now 22, said Sheldon Stevens, the young man's Merritt Island attorney.
"My client is severely injured. . . . When somebody is injured in this way, you see it in his actions, you see it in his relationships with people. He will always be affected by this," Stevens said.
In his civil suit, the young man stated that while he was an altar boy and member of the boys choir at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church he was molested by a parish priest and the choir director.
The lawsuit claimed that Bishop John Nevins and the Rev. Nicholas McLoughlin, St. Charles Borromeo pastor were negligent in failing to prevent the abuse.
The young man claimed that diocesan officials knew the pastor's brother, the Rev. Ed McLoughlin, and former choir director Richard Trepinski had propensities to molest young boys, yet allowed the men to have unsupervised contact with boys.
On Wednesday, Stevens said that he believed church officials purposely ignored or downplayed complaints that should have signaled that Trepinski and Ed McLoughlin might commit molestations.
"The diocese had very strong signs of problems with both Trepinski and (Ed) McLoughlin back in the 1980s, but did nothing after asking each time whether there had been genital contact and being told no," Stevens said. "When all these things added up, a light bulb should have gone off. They spent a great deal of time covering up rather than addressing these problems."
The lawsuit filed in March 1997 named the diocese, Nevins, the McLoughlin brothers and Trepinski.
In his lawsuit, the young man said that, beginning at age 13 in 1991, he was molested by Trepinski for 11/2 years. He said that when he confided in Ed McLoughlin in 1992 about being repeatedly molested by Trepinski, the priest said he needed to be punished and spanked him. Ed McLoughlin began molesting him in the ensuing weeks, he said, adding that the abuse continued for 21/2 years at the St. Charles Borromeo parish office, the parish house, the boy's home and Ed McLoughlin's apartment.
At that time, Ed McLoughlin was assistant pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, which operates a private school on the parish grounds.
An attorney for the diocese has acknowledged that the former altar boy was molested by both men.
Stevens said the suit was settled on behalf of the diocese, Nevins and Nicholas McLoughlin. The settlement calls for claims against Trepinski and Ed McLoughlin to be dismissed.
The young man filed his suit under a fictitious name as permitted under Florida law for victims of sexual abuse. Because of the nature of the incidents, he is not being identified.
He has said he wanted to expose the lack of action by diocese officials in such cases in the hopes of preventing other youngsters from being victimized.
After the settlement, the young man said it had been an ordeal to watch church officials downplay or excuse the incidents throughout the legal battle.
"The church for me was completely violated, but my faith, I struggled with that for a while," he said. "Their (church officials) allegiance seems more to the church than to society."
Neither Nevins nor the Rev. Nicholas McLoughlin could be reached for comment.
Ed McLoughlin has been living in Ireland; Nevins has said the priest has been relieved of active duties. Stevens noted that Ed McLoughlin was sent for an evaluation in the early 1980s, but a decade later, he was still permitted unsupervised contact with boys. He said teachers complaining in 1989 cited incidents as early as 1981.
Stevens said diocesan officials had received complaints since the late 1980s that Ed McLoughlin behaved inappropriately with young boys or made them uncomfortable. They had received similar reports about Trepinski.
Records obtained from Ed McLoughlin's personnel file showed that dating to 1982, he was referred to counseling services for a variety of problems. At that time, he was an assistant pastor at Epiphany Parish in Venice. Letters to his superiors often reflected an optimism about his professional future, although some recommended that he not be given assignments in which he would have contact with youngsters.
His professional counseling began in 1982 when he was evaluated at a Clearwater center affiliated with the Catholic Church.
In 1983, he attended Foundation House, an evaluation and counseling center for priests in New Mexico. That same year, the house director said an academic teaching position at the high school level would be "appropriate" for the priest. McLoughlin was appointed associate pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in 1984.
In 1989, complaints from some parents were forwarded to the Rev. Jerome Carosella, chancellor at the Diocese of Venice, about Ed McLoughlin's actions. Those actions included swatting students on the buttocks, horseplay with young boys and accounts of McLoughlin leaving the playground with individual students.
In a memorandum dated May 26, 1989, Carosella wrote: "None of the incidents mentioned concerned any obvious sexual activity. . . . Our immediate concern in most cases would be whether the individual in question should be removed from the situation. In fact, coincidentally, this has already been done, so there is no longer any concern for the safety of any children at this point."
In August 1993, Nevins received a letter from a 16-year-old Texas boy who had visited Charlotte County and spent some time with friends at St. Charles Borromeo. He met Ed McLoughlin, and referred to him as "a little 'touchy-feely.' "
The boy said he was not molested, but wrote, "I know a 'come-on' when I see one, and I feel it is very unnecessary for a priest to take such liberties."
That fall, in response to the boy's letter, the diocese sent Ed McLoughlin to the Behavioral Medicine Institute of Atlanta for evaluation. An initial evaluation by Dr. Gene Abel at the institute stated that "it would be inappropriate for him to be assigned where he would be working in proximity to children or adolescents." The following spring, a year before McLoughlin and the victim ceased contact, Abel wrote to Nevins that Ed McLoughlin "no longer should spend a lot of time trying to work out his tendency to over-involve himself with boys."
According to a statement in May by the diocese, Nevins apologized to the victim and reaffirmed "his commitment to preventing sexual abuse of minors and all those served by the Church."
The former altar boy said that he is satisfied with the settlement and eager to move forward with his life.
CORRECTION-DATE: June 26, 2002
CORRECTION: * The Herald-Tribune has run an incorrect photograph to accompany stories about former priest Edward McLoughlin. Because of an archiving error and because several people who know McLoughlin misidentified the photo, the picture that ran with three McLoughlin stories (published in 2002, in addition to this story) was of one of his brothers. Edward McLoughlin is pictured above in a photo from 1991.
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