Md. Parish, Del. Priest Abuse Victim Reach $1.7 Million Settlement

By Sean O'Sullivan
News Journal
January 5, 2011

Attorney Tom Crumplar today announced that the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington had agreed to a $1.7 million settlement with his client Joseph Curry, who was set to have his clergy sex abuse case go to trial next week. (News Journal file/BOB HERBERT)

A small Maryland parish that is a part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has settled with priest abuse victim Joseph Curry for $1.7 million.

Curry’s attorney Tom Crumplar announced the settlement in a statement today, adding that Curry has agreed to defer accepting $1.63 million of the settlement to give the Diocese of Wilmington time to set up a fund to compensate all survivors as part of a revised bankruptcy plan.

However, Crumplar said if the diocese does not “do the right thing” and live up to a previous promise to pay all victims an average of $1.2 million, he will “execute on the judgment and sell the parish for the remaining $1.35 million” in addition to any award he may get from his parallel claims against the diocese in bankruptcy court.

“It is now up to new Bishop (W. Francis) Malooly to live up to deceased Bishop Saltarelli's promise or leave the people in the pews to twist slowly in the wind, as is happening at St. Elizabeth's parish in Wilmington now after the $3 million December verdict for John Vai,” he wrote.

The case had been set to go to trial this week in New Castle County Superior Court and would have been the first priest abuse case to reach a courtroom since plaintiff John Vai received a $60 million jury award last month against a pedophile priest, in which St. Elizabeth Parish was required to pay $3 million.

In this case, Joseph Curry, 40, of Smyrna charged in a civil lawsuit that the late Rev. Edward B. Carley abused him hundreds of times from 1981 to 1986 when Curry was an altar boy at St. Dennis Church in Galena, Md.

At the time the abuse started, Curry was 10. It ended when he was about 16.

Unlike the Vai case, in which defrocked priest Francis DeLuca admitted to the abuse, Carley was not questioned about the abuse before his death in 1998. He retired from the priesthood in 1993.

However, the diocese named Carley in 2004 as a priest who had credible or confirmed allegations of abuse lodged against him.

Curry, who then was having behavior issues, told his parents about the abuse in 1994, and Curry's parents went to officials with the Diocese of Wilmington seeking help with paying for Curry's treatment. Despite promising the Curry family they would investigate and get back to them, according to the lawsuit, the diocese never did and never offered assistance.

As a result of the abuse, according to the lawsuit, Curry turned to drugs and alcohol, had emotional issues including anger and depression that led to two failed marriages and a life of petty crime.

According to the lawsuit, Curry began committing crimes as a cry for help, but it was Carley who would frequently bail him out of jail.

All sides had reached a settlement agreement over the weekend, but it called for a payment from an insurance policy that the parish jointly held with the Diocese of Wilmington.

This required U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi to sign off on the agreement -- because it involved assets of the diocese, which has declared bankruptcy -- and the judge expressed strong reservations about lifting a bankruptcy stay to allow the payment.

So a second settlement was hammered out that did not require the bankruptcy court to get involved.

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