A History of Abuse

News Journal
January 11, 2011

A scandal erupts nationwide over how the Catholic Church handled accusations of child sexual abuse against hundreds of priests. The Vatican outlines a new policy defining abuse and outlining how bishops should deal with allegations.

January 2003

The Diocese of Wilmington says it has received credible allegations of sexual abuse of children against 18 priests dating to 1952. Three are named: two who had resigned and one who had been relieved of his duties. The diocese refuses to release the names of the remaining 15 priests, saying seven were dead and none was in active ministry.

January 2004

The diocese acknowledges that 60 people have accused priests of abuse in the past 50 years, and that the diocese has paid $1.6 million to victims and families. The diocese says substantiated claims had been made against one now-deceased priest, bringing the total to 19.

February 2005

The diocese acknowledges a $65,000 payment to a former Wilmington man to reimburse him for counseling needed after years of abuse by a diocesan priest, the Rev. Edward B. Carley, who died in 1998.

October 2005

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office releases an extensive grand jury report about sexual-abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That report reveals the names of several priests from the Diocese of Wilmington.

October 2005

The News Journal makes the first public attempt to chronicle how church leaders in Delaware handled molestation claims. The diocese now has acknowledged that at least 30 priests had been accused of molesting more than 60 children since 1950, but refuses to release a full list of names, saying it sees no compelling reason to do so. The newspaper's review showed that in many ways, the Diocese of Wilmington followed the same pattern revealed in Boston, Philadelphia and other dioceses, where abusive priests were quietly transferred from parish to parish.

October 2006

A former Delaware priest, the Rev. Francis G. DeLuca, is arrested on child sexual-abuse charges in Syracuse, N.Y.

November 2006

The diocese releases the names of 20 diocesan priests about whom there have been "admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated" allegations of child sexual abuse.

July 2007

Delaware's Child Victim's Act becomes law. It eliminates the civil statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and opens a two-year legal "window" during which victims whose cases have been previously barred by Delaware's two-year limit can file suit.

December 2007

Vatican protocol requires bishops to retire at age 75. Speculation begins about a possible successor for Wilmington Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli, whose 75th birthday was Jan. 17, 2007.

July 2008

After one year, Delaware sees fewer cases than expected filed under the Child Victim's Act. Three men win settlements and 10 others file claims.

May 2009

The first Delaware lawsuit filed in the wake of the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal is settled out of court. It is the Diocese of Wilmington's third settlement since January, and at least the sixth since the scandal emerged in 2002. The settlement, for an undisclosed sum, includes an apology and acknowledgement from the bishop and a permanent revocation of the accused priest's authority to minister in the diocese. Saltarelli also apologizes to the victim and his parents and expresses deep regret for the abuse.

July 7, 2009

W. Francis Malooly is named the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington.

July 2009

More than 140 plaintiffs have filed more than 170 civil lawsuits during the two-year window.

Oct. 8, 2009

Michael A. Saltarelli, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Wilmington, dies at age 77.

Oct. 18, 2009

The Diocese of Wilmington files for bankruptcy, freezing lawsuits against it.

October 2009

John Michael Vai's personal-injury lawsuit against the Rev. Francis G. DeLuca, 79, is scheduled to be the first clergy-abuse lawsuit to go to trial on Oct. 19.

Aug. 13, 2010

Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi clears nine priest-abuse cases to go forward to trail. All name a parish as a defendant and seven of the group name defrocked priest Francis DeLuca as a defendant.

September 2010

Diocese fails to reach an out-of-court settlement with abuse victims, files a bankruptcy plan with Judge Sontchi that survivors object to.

Oct. 26, 2010

The first of the parish cases cleared by Sontchi, John Vai v. St. Elizabeth Parish, goes to trial in Kent County Superior Court before President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr.

December 2010

The jury finds in favor of plaintiff John Vai, ordering defrocked priest Francis DeLuca to pay him $60 million in punitive and compensatory damages. The jury also orders St. Elizabeth Parish to pay $3 million of that award to Vai, finding the parish was partially responsible for the abuse Vai suffered as a teenager in the late 1960s.

Jan. 10, 2011

Diocese files amended bankruptcy plan with Judge Sontchi, increasing the amount of money set aside to compensate victims of abuse.

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