Clergy Abuse in Delaware: Maryland Parish Victim Settles

By Sean O'Sullivan
News Journal
January 6, 2011

WILMINGTON -- Priest abuse victim Joseph Curry settled a lawsuit against a small Maryland parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington for $1.7 million Wednesday.

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 from a pedophile priest last month, with St. Elizabeth Parish required to pay $3 million of the award.

Curry's attorney Tom Crumplar said his client agreed to defer $1.63 million of the settlement until the bankruptcy case involving the diocese is resolved so all victims can be compensated fairly. However, Crumplar said if the diocese does not "do the right thing" and live up to what Crumplar said was a promise by the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli to pay all victims an average of $1.2 million, he will "execute on the judgment" and seek the entire sum from the parish.

The diocese questioned Crumplar's recollections.

"Bishop Saltarelli never pledged to pay any specific amount to survivors," said diocese attorney Tony Flynn.

At a press conference Wednesday, Curry said his parents did not realize that when they brought their parish priest in to dine with them that he would prey on their son.

"Be careful who you invite to your dinner table," Curry said.

Curry said he was grateful to his attorneys -- Crumplar, Joseph Benson and Andrew Ahern --and Delaware legislatorswho passed the Child Victims Act that allowed him to file his lawsuit, and family and friends who have helped him over the years. He said he was disappointed that his parents, who adopted him through Catholic Charities in Delaware at age 2, did not live to see his vindication. Myrtle Curry died in 2008 and James Curry died in 2009.

Attorney Mark Reardon, on behalf of St. Dennis Parish in Galena, Md., acknowledged that Curry was a victim of abuse by the late Rev. Edward B. Carley and that a formal apology to Curry will be forthcoming. "The reasons for the settlement boiled down to Mr. Curry's case being a clear demonstration of the kind of tragedy that can result from childhood sexual abuse," he said.

Curry, 40, of Smyrna, charged in his lawsuit that Carley abused him hundreds of times from 1981 to 1986 when Curry was in training to be an altar boy at St. Dennis. At the time the abuse started, Curry was 10. It ended when he was about 16.

Crumplar said Carley would tie up his priest's vestments during the abuse and read from the Bible while he was molesting the teen. Carley then told Curry that if anyone ever found out about the abuse, Curry would be taken away from his family and go to hell, according to Crumplar.

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.

Curry confronted church officials and told his parents about the abuse in 1994, and according to the lawsuit, officials with the diocese promised the Curry family they would investigate.

According to court records, Carley then admitted to abusing Curry, but Crumplar said no one ever passed that along to the Curry family and no one offered the family help with the cost of treatment. Crumplar said church officials instead allowed the Curry family to be ostracized by their community.

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