The Catholic Diocese of Trenton has announced that it has agreed to pay $1 million dollars to five former altar boys who accused their parish priest of sexually abusing them 30 years ago.
According to a report, payment of this sum will bring to $1.3 million, the total payment to child abuse victims of Reverend Ronald Becker who served as parish priest in the diocese from 1973 to 1989. Reverend Becker is accused of having molested five altar boys "hundreds of times," with one boy claimed to have been molested "an estimated 150 times." According to a Reuters report:
Father Becker told the children that it was God's way of showing God's love, and that the matter should be kept secret.
According to Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer representing the men:
Father Becker knew no boundaries…He was a sexual deviant, a social deviant. He did not care about children.
The five men came forward and made their claims after Becker's niece Jenni Franz made sex abuse allegations against Becker in 2007. Becker was arrested on charges of assault but died in 2009 while still awaiting trial.
One of the five former altar boys, after observing the manner in which the Catholic Church handled the case during mediation, said:
I do not believe in the church anymore…I believe it's a business. And I saw that during mediation.
His statement appears to have been in reaction to the fact that the Church did not admit any liability neither did it offer any apology to the men. The Catholic Church simply maintained that it had removed Becker from positions which allowed him access to children in 1989 when it first received complaints of his abusive behavior and that it cooperated with police investigators in the charges against Becker before he died in 2009.
The Trenton payments are yet another in a series of settlement claims in relation to allegations of child abuse. Other dioceses that have agreed to make similar payments after allegations of Child sex abuse include the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Delaware, which agreed to pay a whopping $24 million in settlement of 39 claims; the Diocese of Wilmington which recently filed for bankruptcy under a barrage of claims amounting to $77 million.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is also facing several lawsuits initiated by abuse victims after eight priests were arrested and a grand jury report accused the church leadership of covering up child abuse cases and refusing to remove pedophile clergy from their positions.
The Diocese of Trenton includes Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer Counties.