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  2 Dioceses to Settle in Sex-Abuse Lawsuit
Officials in Orlando, St. Augustine to Pay $1.5 Million in Alleged Incidents in the '60s

By Mark I. Pinsky
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
July 12, 2005

The Catholic dioceses of Orlando and St. Augustine have agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle lawsuits by three men who say they were sexually abused as altar boys more than 30 years ago.

In their complaint, the three men alleged that two Central Florida priests, Vernon Uhran and Hubert Reason, abused them at summer camp at the San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park and at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs.

Through their lawyers, the three victims declined to comment on the settlement. However, the lawsuit alleged that all of the incidents occurred in the 1960s at the church rectory, at the camp, and in hotel rooms during recruiting trips for the camps.

On May 1, Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski brought the accusations to the attention of three Central Florida parishes where the priests had served: St. Mary Magdalen; Church of the Resurrection in Lakeland; and St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview, in Marion County. Wenski urged any parishioners who had information about the two men to come forward.

Reason died in 1984. Bishop Norbert Dorsey, then bishop of Orlando, removed Uhran from the ministry in 1992 after an allegation of sexual abuse. Uhran could not be reached for comment Monday.

"That these allegations of abuse occurred more than 30 years ago does not lessen the horror we feel at this betrayal of trust and the harm caused to the victims," Wenski said Monday. "We remain committed to helping every victim, and we pray for all those involved in these situations."

Because the Diocese of Orlando was created from the Diocese of St. Augustine in 1968, each agreed to pay $750,000, which was to be divided equally among the three men, according to their attorneys.

"We believe Bishop Wenski is committed to doing the right thing for victims of abuse," said Adam Horowitz, a spokesman for Herman & Mermelstein, the Miami law firm that represented the three men. "This is a step in the right direction."

Despite the settlement and the conciliatory statements on both sides, some matters are still in dispute. The suit alleged that diocesan officials transferred Reason to several parishes and assignments after allegations of pedophilia were made, and that Uhran had been permitted to retire. Diocesan officials denied both allegations Monday.

The Diocese of Orlando's portion of the settlement probably will be covered by insurance, said Carol Brinati, spokeswoman for the diocese.

Last year, Dorsey said the diocese had paid $4.2 million to 36 minors abused by 12 priests between 1968 and 2002.

Included in that figure was more than $2 million paid to four victims of the Rev. William Authenrieth. The victims said they were abused by the priest between 1978 and 1983 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Rockledge. Authenrieth was stripped of his priestly authority in 1985.

Earlier this week, the leader of Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay-reform group holding its national meeting in Indianapolis, said the clergy sexual abuse scandal eventually will cost U.S. dioceses $2 billion to $3 billion. Last month, The Associated Press reported that costs so far totaled slightly more than $1 billion for abuse cases.

 
 

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