6 Men Settle Priest Abuse Lawsuit for $4.65 Million

By Sam Hodges
The Dallas Morning News
October 17, 2009

Six men who said they were abused as boys by the Rev. Thomas Behnke, a Catholic priest who worked in Dallas in the 1970s and '80s, have settled their lawsuit for $4.65 million.

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas will pay $500,000, and the balance will be paid by Behnke's religious order, the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Province of St. Therese of Oklahoma.

Though not a diocesan priest, Behnke now deceased worked on assignment from 1979 to 1984 at Dallas' St. Mary of Carmel Catholic Church and its school. The abuse occurred while Behnke worked at the Dallas church, and, in the case of one victim, while he worked at an Oklahoma church, said plaintiffs' lawyer Linda Turley.

Turley said the victims, all of them males, were abused beginning in or around their sixth-grade year. Much of the abuse occurred in the Dallas church's rectory and on trips, said Lori Watson, another lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The diocese confirmed the settlement, noting that insurance would cover most of its portion. The diocese also asserted that it had no reason to suspect Behnke was an abuser when he accepted an assignment at St. Mary of Carmel.

"I commend the Carmelites for taking responsibility for these heinous offenses and am grieved that the diocese was not made aware of concerns about Thomas Behnke before his assignment in Dallas in 1978," said Bishop Kevin Farrell. "I continue to pray for all victims and their families."

Jim Grau, a lawyer representing the order, said: "The Carmelites are pleased that this matter, dating back many years, is resolved. The Carmelites are hopeful that it will bring some measure of relief to those involved."



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.