Diocese Reaches "Six Figure" Settlement over Sex Abuse Claim
By Noah Cohen and Justin Zaremba
September 15, 2015
|The Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese reached settlement with a woman who alleged that a former Passaic Catholic high school vice principal repeatedly sexually abused her decades ago, her attorney said on Sept. 15, 2015. (Justin Zaremba | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)|
A woman who alleged that a former Passaic Catholic high school vice principal repeatedly sexually abused her nearly 40 years ago when she was a student there has received a "six-figure" settlement from the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese, her attorney said Tuesday.
The woman's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, said his client reached a settlement with the diocese over her claims against Monsignor Ronald Tully. The woman alleged that Tully fondled her 20 times when she was a 16-year-old student at Pope Pius XII Regional High School in 1977, Garabedian said.
At least nine others have received about $2.1 million in settlements over claims of sexual abuse by Tully, The Record reported. Tully has denied the allegations against him.
According to the report, church officials removed Tully from his post at a Dover church in 2004 after they received word of criminal charges alleging he abused two Pope Pius students at his vacation home in 1979 in New York.
Paterson Diocese spokesman Richard Sokerka confirmed Tully served as a priest at Sacred Heart Parish in Dover prior to being placed on administrative leave in 2004. The spokesman declined further comment.
RELATED: How a sex scandal in Minnesota could impact 1.2 million Catholics in N.J.
Garabedian blamed school leadership for failing to act when his client made the allegations. The woman, he said, ultimately quit school and obtained a GED.
"Once again, supervisors of the Catholic Church have shown how they don't care about the safety of children. They just don't care about the safety and welfare of children," said Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney.
The woman hoped her case would prompt other possible victims to come forward, he added.
"She's trying to heal," Garabedian told NJ Advance Media. "She's been living with the sad memories of being sexually abused for quite a few years."
Garabedian said his client filed a report with the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office about two months ago, but the statute of limitations for criminal charges had run out.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, former priest Robert Hoatson said his group Road to Recovery was seeking to remove the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims involving children.
MORE: Priest admits sex with minor, says teen 'wanted' it
Hoatson, whose group helps victims of sexual abuse, called cases of priests abusing children "murder of the soul."
"Since there is no statute of limitations on murder of the body, why should there be a statute of limitations on the murder of the soul," he said outside of the Paterson Diocese office in Clifton.
Under state law, one can be only be prosecuted for criminal sexual contact and child endangerment within five years after the victim reaches the age of 18 or "within two years following the reasonable discovery of the offense by the victim, whichever is later."
Paterson Diocese attorney Ken Mullaney confirmed a settlement had been reached and said Tully had been placed on administrative leave more than a decade ago.
In 2012, the local diocese filed paperwork with the Vatican to defrock him — known within the church as laicization. At the behest of the diocese, Tully agreed to submit to voluntary laicization, which usually takes less time than involuntary laicization, Mullaney said. The settlement was not an admission.
Until the laicization process is complete, Tully will continue to draw a pension from the diocese.
"I don't know why it's taken so long in this case," Mullaney said.
Mullaney declined to comment on the current whereabouts of Tully, except to say that he no longer lives in New Jersey. Tully could not be reached for comment.