The Catholic church in New York has reached a record US$ 27.5 million settlement with four men who said they were sexually abused as children, attorneys said on Tuesday. The Diocese of Brooklyn, one of the city's boroughs, agreed to make the payments to the four, who were sexually abused between 2003 and 2009 by their religion teacher, their lawyers said.
The sum breaks down to US$ 6.87 million for each of the victims, who were between the ages of eight and 12 at the time.
This is the largest settlement ever involving individual victims, said attorney Ben Rubinowitz.
We are glad to see the church finally being brought to justice. It continued for months and in certain cases for years.
The settlement ends the civil complaint of the four victims, which was to lead to a trial in early 2019, said Rubinowitz.
The complaint was filed in 2012. It came after religion teacher Angelo Serrano - now 67 years old - was arrested in 2009 for molesting a child, for which he pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
According to Rubinowitz, the diocese agreed to pay after trying to distance itself from Serrano, who was employed by the little parish of St Lucy-St Patrick, but not a priest.
A church priest, also targeted by the complaint, admitted to having seen Serrano one day kiss a child on the mouth, but never addressed the abuse, said another of the lawyers Peter Saghir.
They decided that, rather than risk a trial, that it was time for them to make a payment.
According to the website BishopAccountability.org, the previous record for an individual compensation was US$ 3.4 million and was paid to the two victims of Matthew Maiello of New York.
News of the settlement came as several US states, worried by a report in August detailing decades of sexual abuse involving more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, are looking into historic abuse cases in their own jurisdictions.
The Church was also rocked by the resignation in July of US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, an influential ex-bishop of Washington. He was accused of sexually abusing a teenager while working as a priest in New York in the early 1970s.