$3.8 Million Settles 23 Sex Abuse Suits

By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 21, 2004

The Archdiocese of St. Louis this year agreed to pay nearly $3.8 million to settle 23 civil suits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, including two suits settled last week, according to a church lawyer.

The settlements do not resolve open criminal cases or end the suits against individual priests, said Bernard Huger, a lawyer representing the archdiocese.

Huger said about $742,000 of the settlement total was covered by insurance. The church is still fighting with its insurance company over whether a nearly $1.7 million settlement reached in June will be covered.

Last week, the alleged victims of Michael McGrath and Romano Ferraro resolved their cases in a mediated settlement, joining two other victims who have settled their cases since August for a total of $270,000, Huger said Monday.

McGrath began working as a priest in St. Louis in 1975 and has been accused of abuse by 17 people. He was removed from the ministry in 1997.

Ferraro is serving a life sentence in Massachusetts for raping and sexually assaulting a young Massachusetts boy.

During his trial, he confessed to abusing young boys in St. Louis and New York but denied abusing the Massachusetts boy, according to news reports.

The church settled two other suits earlier this fall by alleged victims of jailed priest Bryan Kuchar and the late Norman Christian.

Kuchar is serving three years in the St. Louis County jail after a jury found him guilty last year of three counts of statutory sodomy for molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1995, when Kuchar was parish priest at Assumption Catholic Church in south St. Louis County.

One man settled a suit involving Kuchar earlier this year. A second man settled his civil suit Oct. 28, Huger said, for an amount in the low six figures.

In the second suit, the man said when he was 16 and an aspiring priest, Kuchar repeatedly sodomized him during overnight visits to the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.

The Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests released news of the Kuchar settlement Monday.

Jim Orso, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that Kuchar's name was one of a handful submitted to the Vatican months ago for removal from the priesthood. Orso said those requests were still being processed but he expected them to be granted.

Christian abused an 11-year-old at St. George Church in Affton 30 years ago, that man's suit alleges. Christian died in October.

Huger said the mediation process was designed to help resolve the suits promptly and to begin the healing process for victims.

Robert Yim and Alexander R. Anderson and the late Sister Judith Fischer are the others named in the suits settled this year.


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