Peoria Diocese Settles in Abuse Suit / Agreement Won't Affect Goodman Portion of Lawsuit

By John Briggs
State Journal-Register [Springfield, IL]
April 10, 1999

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced Friday that a settlement has been reached with the plaintiffs in the sexual abuse lawsuit against Monsignor Norman Goodman, which named the diocese as a co-defendant.

The suit, which asked $ 1 million in punitive damages and 'a sum in excess of $ 50,000' for each alleged victim, was filed in Peoria County Circuit Court in August on behalf of 13 former altar boys who accused Goodman of sexually abusing them years ago while he served as pastor of Holy Family Church in Lincoln.

Goodman abruptly retired in 1997, shortly before attorneys announced plans to file the lawsuit. The diocese cited his health as the reason. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and will remain secret under the agreement. The diocese said it hoped 'this decision (will) be respected by the community and the media.' Goodman has steadfastly denied the charges made against him. He said Friday night that he first learned of the settlement from television reports.

'I haven't seen the (diocese's) statement,' he said, asking that it be read to him. 'I would have thought they would have informed me, but they didn't have to, you know. I'm on the outside.' The settlement deals only with the portion of the suit naming the diocese.

The counts against Goodman remain unresolved.

In addition to the charges against Goodman, the ex-altar boys accused the diocese of failing to supervise him, though diocesan officials knew '(Goodman) had, for several years, exhibited dangerous pedophile traits.' Despite knowing that, the diocese 'did not remove (him) from contact with minor boys,' the suit alleges, claiming the diocese also 'fraudulently concealed ... information about (Goodman's) dangerous sexual proclivities, of which they were aware.' Diocese spokeswoman Kate Kenny said earlier this week that the diocese had to separate its portion of the case from Goodman's. The diocese and Goodman have retained different attorneys.

The diocese's decision to distance itself from Goodman has been seen by many in Holy Family Parish as a betrayal of a valued priest by the church.

Those feelings re-emerged in angry comments late Friday after the settlement was announced.

'I've expected this,' longtime parishioner and Goodman supporter Thomas Fedor said in a statement. 'It is a shame that the bishop sold out Monsignor Goodman after more than 35 years of service.

'This is not over by a long shot, and we will do everything in our power to do what is needed to achieve truth and justice.' Fedor and other Goodman supporters contend his accusers are motivated by greed.

Emotions have been fierce on both sides of the controversy since the accusations against Goodman first surfaced in the fall of 1997. One of his anonymous accusers, identified only as KC, told The Lincoln Courier in December 1997, 'You were always raised to go to church, to serve God, to praise God. Something like this happens, I can't go back. I haven't lost my faith, but part of being a Catholic is going to church. For me, I can't do that anymore. ' Another accuser said he wanted only an apology from Goodman and an assurance from the church that Goodman wouldn't be in a position in the future to abuse more children.

That plaintiff, identified as PJ, recounted tales of Goodman fondling him while putting dollar bills in his pocket.

Goodman's supporters remain outraged by such depictions of a man they regard as a man of integrity and a close personal friend.

'I've known him 30 years,' Bailey said Friday. 'I know there's no way he could have done this kind of stuff. The church has been degraded (by the settlement).' In its statement Friday, the diocese acknowledged the damage the case has done locally: 'The claims in these cases have caused pain and distress to all of the parties, to members of the Holy Family Parish, and to the Lincoln community.

'The diocese and the plaintiffs have reached a settlement with the hope that the resolution of this matter will bring an end to the prospect of several years of continuing pain within the church and community.'


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