St. Louis Archdiocese to Settle 18 Abuse Cases

The Associated Press [St. Louis MO]
August 26, 2004

ST. LOUIS - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis will settle 18 civil lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse by paying more than $2 million, lawyers representing the accusers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a story Thursday.

More than 30 additional cases against the archdiocese are still pending, attorney Susan Carlson, who is representing several accusers, said. Lawyers told the newspaper it appears those cases likely will be negotiated in upcoming months.

Negotiations have been underway since January in more than 20 cases involving allegations against five priests and a nun, who is now deceased.

Lawyers told the Post-Dispatch agreements were reached in most, but not all, of those cases; they would not say exactly how much each accuser received in the settlements.

A lawyer for the archdiocese, Edward Goldenhersh, said be believes his client would have prevailed in court. The money the archdiocese is paying out is to help with counseling expenses, he said.

"They've brought claims and I can beat them in court, and they know that," he said, noting that the archdiocese would have argued that the statute of limitations had run out.

The archdiocese also has agreed to educate children about what is appropriate touching and to educate employees about recognizing child sexual abuse, Carlson said. It also will post the state child abuse hot line in all archdiocese workplaces.

In same cases, the archdiocese will write a letter of apology to the accuser.

The $2 million is separate from more than $1.6 million paid by the archdiocese in June to a St. Louis family that said the Rev. Gary Wolken sexually abused their son. Wolken, the former associate pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2003.

The five current or former priests involved in the settlements are Michael McGrath, Romano Ferraro, Robert Yim, Alexander R. Anderson, Bryan Kuchar. The nun is the late Sister Judith Fischer.

McGrath, of Richmond Heights, was removed from the ministry in 1997 after working as a priest in St. Louis since 1975. Seventeen people have accused McGrath of abuse.

Ferraro was convicted in May of raping a boy in Massachusetts in the 1970s. A man in St. Louis filed a suit in January alleging that Ferraro had abused him in the early 1980s. Ferraro was suspended from priestly duties in 1988, and is serving a life sentence in Massachusetts.

Three men accused Yim of abuse while he was a priest in the archdiocese from 1974 until 1995, when he resigned from the priesthood. In 1990, then-Archbishop John L. May removed Yim from parish ministry.

Anderson, currently pastor of Most Sacred Heart church in Eureka, was accused of abusing a boy in the 1980s.

Anderson filed a suit against the man in return. The settlement of the case came in February with neither the priest nor his accuser apologizing or withdrawing his accusations. The church, in what it called an act of kindness, agreed to pay Anderson's accuser $8,000 for past counseling and $14,500 for future medical costs.

"In my case, the diocese paid counseling fees for someone who had alleged abuse," Anderson told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. "There was no financial settlement other than that."

Kuchar is serving three years in the St. Louis County jail for abusing a boy in 1995.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,