Archdiocese Settles Suit over Molestation of Teens

By Don Plummer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [Atlanta GA]
Downloaded December 19, 2003

Catholic Church officials have settled a $10 million lawsuit brought by the parents of two teenage boys molested over 18 months by a church worker at St. Ann Catholic Church in east Cobb County.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and an order of Catholic priests associated with a 44-year-old lay worker at St. Ann agreed to the settlement late Wednesday, said attorney Fred D. Bentley Jr. The settlement includes the reading of a public apology from the church's pulpit on the first Sunday in January, Bentley said.

The Atlanta Archdiocese and the Missionaries of LaSalette agreed to pay a Cobb couple an undisclosed amount to compensate them for medical costs resulting from the molestation of their 14-year-old sons, Bentley said.

"The family is appreciative of the attention it received from the church and intends to move forward in the Catholic faith," Bentley said Thursday.

Kenneth Joseph Cassity pleaded guilty in June to two counts of child molestation. He was sentenced to six years in prison and nine years of probation. The abuse occurred between July 1999 and December 2000, according to prosecutors.

The lawsuit, filed in November, states that St. Ann was warned as early as September 1999 that Cassity might pose a danger to children -- more than a year before he was dismissed from his duties there. The church asked Cassity to leave in August 2000, but said at the time it was because he did not "fit in," the suit maintains.

Cassity was described as an "interim pastoral aide" at the parish in a statement issued by the Missionaries of LaSalette, the religious order staffing St. Ann. A lawyer representing the LaSalette order said Cassity was a layman trying to see whether he had a religious vocation while living at St. Ann.

Cassity taught Sunday school, did maintenance work and provided security at St. Ann's church-run school, according to the lawsuit.

The archdiocese placed no restrictions on what the family can say about the lawsuit or its settlement, a lawyer for the archdiocese said.

"It's obvious that this family, the boys, their mother, their father, suffered massive injuries at the hands of this guy Cassity," said archdiocese attorney David Brown. "It's just too bad that Cassity doesn't have to serve a year for every tear these people have shed."

The LaSalette order issued a written statement saying its members "are deeply saddened by the allegations of sex misconduct stemming from the actions of Mr. Kevin Cassity."

"In light of who we are, sexual abuse of young people is an affront to our ministry everywhere and opposed to everything to which we profess," said the statement read by LaSalette attorney Terry Brantley.

In August, the Atlanta Archdiocese issued a policy requiring removal of any priest found guilty of sexual abuse and obligating church personnel to report suspicions to church authorities.

The policy, issued after a call for better oversight of church workers by American Catholic bishops, requires background checks for employees who deal with children.


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