Man Settles Out-Of-Court with Diocese of Scranton

By Dave Janoski
The Citizens Voice
January 4, 2007

Scranton — A Kentucky man who claimed he was repeatedly molested as a child by a priest from the Scranton Diocese more than 30 years ago has agreed to an out-of-court settlement of his suit against the diocese.

David Irvin, 43, filed suit in federal court in 2005, claiming diocesan officials knew of prior abuse allegations against the priest, Robert N. Caparelli, but allowed him to continue serving in local parishes and schools.

The suit, which sought more than $75,000 in damages, alleged that Caparelli, while assistant pastor at St. Mary's Church in Old Forge, began molesting Irvin in 1969, when he was 6. Irvin's family, who were devout Catholics, lived near Caparelli's parents' home in Lakeville, Wayne County, and allowed the boy to visit Caparelli there unsupervised, according to the suit.

Caparelli died in prison in 1994 after pleading guilty to sexual assaults against two Pike County altar boys.

The terms of the settlement have not been revealed. Irvin's suit in U.S. Middle District Court was dismissed on Dec. 11 by Judge James M. Munley, who noted the settlement in his order and gave the parties 60 days to execute it.

The settlement in the Irvin case is the third involving Caparelli. In 1996, the diocese settled two suits filed in connection with the Pike County incidents for about $225,000, an attorney for the diocese said earlier this year. From 1995 through June 2006, the diocese spent more than $835,000 to settle four molestation suits involving Caparelli and other priests, according to the diocese.

At least 25 diocesan priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors since 1950, according to diocesan reports.

Irvin could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His attorney, Joseph H. Saunders, did not return phone messages left at his Florida office. Clarks Summit attorney Karoline Mehalchick, who represented the diocese, and diocesan spokesman William Genello did not return phone messages.

Irvin's suit alleged diocesan officials were aware of abuse allegations against Caparelli as early as 1968, but "chose to do nothing to prevent inappropriate sexual contact between Caparelli and young children or to limit his unsupervised access to boys."

Caparelli's diocesan file, entered as an exhibit in one of the Pike County cases, contains letters from two police officers detailing allegations that the priest molested young boys while he served in parishes in Hazleton and Old Forge from 1968 through 1974.

Pennsylvania's statute of limitations would have normally barred Irvin from suing the diocese more than three decades after the alleged abuse. But the 20-year Navy veteran claimed an exemption under the federal Military Civil Relief Act, which stops the statute of limitations from running while a plaintiff is in the military.

Legal arguments over how to apply the act in Irvin's case were still ongoing when the settlement was reached.


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