Diocese of Corpus Christi Settles Sex Abuse Lawsuit

The Caller
July 12, 2011

CORPUS CHRISTI A $1.2 million settlement was reached Tuesday between the Diocese of Corpus Christi and three men who say they were sexually assaulted by a priest while altar boys in the 1970s.

The suit accuses Msgr. Hugh Clarke of sexually assaulting the men from 1972 to 1975 in the church rectory and school while he was associate pastor at Christ the King Church. Clarke died in 2002.

"They feel like they finally got the diocese to acknowledge the truth," said Tom Rhodes, an attorney for the men.

Diocese officials released a statement saying the diocese is committed to serving the needs of anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a church worker, and strives to ensure a safe environment in all of its parishes and work places.

"We urge prayers for all who were affected by the situation surrounding today's settlement," the release said.

The lawsuit, filed more than a year ago, alleges gross negligence by the diocese, claiming they knew Clarke had a history of psychosexual problems, including six months of psychiatric care in a mental hospital in the 1960s and treatment in Virginia in the 1980s.

The men sued the diocese and its current and former bishops.

The men's attorneys say that while reports of Clarke's abuse began to surface in Corpus Christi and from a church in Laredo, the priest continued to be promoted and assigned to various churches unsupervised.

"It's been a long and difficult struggle," Rhodes said. "They feel vindicated."Rhodes said the men hope the settlement sends a message to others who have suffered abuse but are afraid to speak out.

"We hope this case brings the church closer to transparency," Rhodes said. "Let's get the truth out and deal with it."

In 2002, the diocese implemented safe environment training programs, which in the past two years alone, has reached more than 17,000 youth and more than 10,000 church workers and volunteers, according to a news release.

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