Dallas Diocese Settles Case of Pedophile Priest

By Brett Shipp
October 2, 2009

[with video]

DALLAS There has been another huge cash settlement over claims that a pedophile priest destroyed the lives of three young boys.

The victims, now grown men, first came forward three years ago. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas has agreed to settle the claims of the abused former parishioners who are seeking personal closure and meaningful reforms.

The victims hope this gesture sends a message to the diocese, but they wonder if it will.

Over the past two decades, more than 20 priests or church employees have been fired, defrocked or jailed for allegedly abusing children.

Add to that list former monsignor and priest Richard Johnson, whose victims are now being compensated for his ruining their lives. Father Richard Johnson was one of the highest-ranking priests in the Dallas Diocese.

His victims, who wish to remain anonymous, say he was also one of the most sinister. "The abuse with me occurred at both St. Bernard's rectory and also at a private ranch," said one.

Seven former parishioners tell heartbreaking stories of repeated abuse by Father Johnson over the years. A frequent tactic, they said, was to ply the boys with drinks.

"When the abuse first started with the alcohol and me being so inebriated that really I had no control over my... anything," one victim said.

Another accuser said the church never fully investigated his complaint, which was lodged in 2001. "I was never contacted by the diocese after that, nor was I contacted by their attorney or Child Protective Services."

The diocese says it never knew of any allegations against Father Johnson until the first lawsuit was filed in 2007.

Father Johnson was suspended and permitted to quietly retire with full benefits.

Attorney Tahira Merritt says, by contrast, the past two years for her clients have been rough. "John Doe 1 and the other boys that were involved in the case, the other victims, have gone through a very intense litigation process, and have frankly felt re-victimized by that process," she said.

Diocese officials have now decided to settle the claims against Johnson, but Merritt said that with other priests still accused, it hardly amounts to a confession.

"There are still cases that are pending that are going through the court systems right now that should be handled appropriately, and those victims all need healing and reconciliation," Merritt said.

Diocese officials are acknowledging the abuse by Johnson.

They have settled the case for $800,000 and are seeking to have Johnson defrocked as a priest,

The diocese also offers a public apology to the victims.



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