The Roman Catholic archdiocese of St Louis has agreed to pay $1m to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who previously spent 12 years in prison for abusing another boy, an attorney for the victim said Friday.
The plaintiff was an altar boy at a church in Chesterfield, Missouri. The suit alleged he was abused by Gary Wolken starting in 1993, when the boy was in fourth grade, and continuing through 1995. The lawsuit said the plaintiff repressed memories until he was an adult.
The man’s lawsuit, which did not use his name, was filed in 2018. That year, a grand jury report in the state of Pennsylvania outlined hundreds of previously undisclosed cases of abuse by Catholic priests and deacons, reigniting the worldwide church’s decades-old clerical molestation scandal, particularly in the US.
More than 30 dioceses and other Catholic institutions in the US have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid a wave of abuse-related lawsuits targeting the organizations.
The St Louis plaintiff’s attorney, Rebecca Randles, said the settlement was reached this week.
“We applaud our client who has been very brave in facing down the archdiocese of St Louis in a case that was very hard-fought and difficult from an emotional and legal standpoint,” Randles said.
The archdiocese said in a statement that it hopes the settlement provides some comfort for the victim and his family.
“We continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse, that they may find comfort and healing,” the statement said. “Please keep all those who are exploited in your prayers, especially children and vulnerable adults.”
Wolken is now 57. He was sentenced to prison in 2003 for sexually abusing another St Louis-area boy from 1997 to 2000. He was in prison from 2003 to 2015.
The archdiocese suspended Wolken after the criminal allegation and began the process of permanently removing him as clergy, a process that was completed in 2007, the archdiocesan statement said.
In 2004, the archdiocese paid nearly $1.7m to settle a lawsuit claiming that church leaders could have intervened to prevent the abuse but didn’t.
“Long ago, church staff knew … Gary Wolken was a predator but did almost nothing to stop him and protect kids,” David Clohessy of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement.
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