Fort Worth Diocese Settles Another Priest Abuse Claim

By Elizabeth Campbell
Forth Worth Star-Telegram
April 17, 2013

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has reached a settlement this week with one of the victims reportedly abused by former priest James Reilly.

The settlement was reached through mediation, and the victim asked to remain anonymous, according to a news release from the diocese. The terms of the settlement were also confidential.

Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina said he didn't have additional details as to whether the settlement was based on a lawsuit or just a mediated settlement.

In a statement shared with the victim, Msgr. Stephen Berg, diocesan administrator, said he is deeply sorry for any sexual abuse and suffering the victim may have suffered and endured by Reilly.

"The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and I are committed to ensuring that the Diocese's policies are adhered to so we can prevent future tragedy such as that which has befallen the victims of abuse," he said. "The diocese has been and is committed to being in compliance with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Bishops of the United States in 2002."

The charter is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse.

Reilly was parish priest at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington from 1969 to 1987. He moved to Philadelphia and died in 1999.

Tahira Kahn Merritt, a Dallas attorney who represented 26 men who were abused by Reilly, said she is not representing the person who settled with the diocese this week.

Although files on Reilly were released, Merritt said a culture of "secrecy" still exists.

"I think more needs to be done in terms of transparency," she said. "Look at the cases in the Fort Worth and Dallas dioceses and throughout Texas. There is a pattern similar to what we're seeing in California. Priests were moved around and allowed to gain access."

Less than three months after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released the files of priests accused of sex abuse, attorneys for the victims are back in court seeking similar records kept by more than a dozen religious orders.

The courts are trying to decide the process of determining if the records kept by the religious orders such as the Jesuits, Vincentians, Salesians and Dominicans, among others, will be made public.

Merritt said abuse was brought to light because of the courage of victims and the legal system.

She said her 26 clients were altar boys.

"Unfortunately, their beliefs were that the priest could do no wrong ..." Merritt said. "Until the church really owns up to what their past sins have been, this (abuse) will continue."



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