Four men who were sexually abused as children by a Church education director will get $27.5 million — that’s almost $7 million each — from the Catholic diocese in Brooklyn, New York as part of a settlement.
The Church announced the deal — one of the largest ever awarded to individual victims — yesterday. The victims were repeatedly abused by Angelo Serrano (below), who taught catechism classes at St. Lucy’s St. Patrick’s Church.
The abuse occurred inside the church, in Mr. Serrano’s apartment located in an old schoolhouse behind the church and at the affiliated after-school program, lawyers for the victims said.
The settlement comes amid a flurry of investigations — including a New York State civil investigation — and disclosures of sex abuse within the Catholic Church that have led to mounting pressure on Pope Francis to take action against bishops and cardinals for their role in the abuse crisis.
The sexual assaults in Brooklyn took place between 2003 and 2009, the lawyers said, when the boys were between the ages of 8 and 12.
This is a tragic case that has been going on for quite some time. Serrano is already behind bars, serving a 15-year sentence after being arrested in 2009. He pleaded guilty two years later.
But two of the victims filed a separate lawsuit against the Brooklyn diocese in 2013, and the two other victims later filed their own suits. The Church did everything it could to escape responsibility, including arguing that Serrano wasn’t technically an employee.
In fighting the idea that they should be held responsible for the abuse, the Diocese of Brooklyn argued that Mr. Serrano was a church volunteer, not a diocesan employee. The diocese also disputed that the abuse took place on church grounds, arguing that abuse in Mr. Serrano’s apartment was not its legal responsibility.
But lawyers for the victims pointed out that Mr. Serrano received a stipend from the church and had a desk on church property.
A Brooklyn judge sided with the victims, finding that clear warning signs that Mr. Serrano was abusing the children were ignored by parish workers and priests and not reported.
The Revs. Stephen P. Lynch and Frank Shannon were named as co-defendants in the case for knowing about the abuse and not reporting it to the authorities or the Church leadership.
“The record is clear that Lynch and Shannon had knowledge that for years Serrano often had several boys, including plaintiff, sleep over at his apartment,” Justice Loren Baily-Schiffman of Kings County Supreme Court wrote in her 2017 order dismissing the church’s motion for summary judgment of the case. “In fact, both Lynch and Shannon testified that they visited Serrano on numerous occasions when young boys were present.”
In a deposition, Father Lynch testified that he saw Mr. Serrano kiss an 8- or 9-year-old boy on the mouth and inappropriately embrace the boy.
This is a major case, perhaps a record-breaking one in terms of individual payouts, yet it is not surprising. It is just a drop in the bucket of the widespread abuse by clergymen within the Catholic Church. It’s scary to think how many more stories like this (or worse) are out there that we don’t even know about yet.