Catholic diocese settles case alleging abuse at church camp.
The Archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay a $2.1 million settlement in a lawsuit concerning the alleged abuse of a seven-year-old girl back in 2015 at an unnamed camp in Cook County. The plaintiff, now 12, was “repeatedly abused by a camp counselor at the church, playground and in a classroom,” according to Antonio Romanucci, one of her attorneys.
The girl told a teacher about what happened, and the teacher told her father. Romanucci said, “When the father confronted the priest and church leaders, they discouraged the father from calling police, saying the allegations would ruin the girl’s reputation and negatively impact attendance at the church.”
The counselor who the girl said abused her had a “suspected history of mental health concerns,” according to documents. “The church leaders involved had knowledge that this man should not be responsible for young girls, and chose to look the other way,” said Martin Gould, another attorney for the plaintiff.
The Catholic church continues to face allegations of abuse across the nation, including the case of New York’s Father Michael Freeman’s alleged sexual molestation of boys that spanned many years without reprimand. The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo already had received three complaints about Freeman’s alleged misconduct when he took a position as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Lancaster in 1984. Yet, he was still able to serve in this position and his bad behavior only continued.
The Buffalo Diocese “knew in 1981 that Freeman had a history of abuse,” according to a Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August 2018. The report also indicated Freeman admitted to engaging in sexual misconduct with minors, yet, “The Grand Jury found no documentation in Freeman’s file that indicated that the Dioceses of Buffalo or Erie ever notified law enforcement officials, despite the fact that Freeman admitted to sexually violating children in at least five of his six ministry assignments.”
On an even larger scale, a lawsuit was filed in 2018 after a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report of abuse allegations against more than 300 priests across eight dioceses was released. The report indicated more than 1,000 children were allegedly molested and that the “real number” of abused children might be “in the thousands.” It sought to hold the dioceses responsible for protecting all members of their congregations.
“From our perspective this is completely about disclosure and coming clean and allowing these predator priests to be named. The concealment of these priests is a continuing slap in the face to these survivors. It’s a continuing slap in the face to the parents who trust these churches and institutions to educate these children,” Benjamin Sweet, an attorney for the lead plaintiffs in the class action, stated.
Of the Cook County allegations, Romanucci said, “These types of cases reflect the continued negligence by church leaders. In this specific case, however, we are appreciative that the Archdiocese of Chicago recognized how horrific this incident was and the everlasting impact it would have on our client, which finally led to the resolution of the case.”