Fort Worth diocese settles lawsuit claiming teen was sexually abused by priest

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Where to go for help:

Those who have witnessed or suffered sexual abuse by someone who serves in the Catholic Church should call civil authorities at the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, 1-800-252-5400.

To report abuse to the Diocese of Fort Worth, call Judy Locke, Victim Assistance Coordinator, 817-560-2452, ext. 201 or e-mail her at jlocke@fwdioc.org, or call The Catholic Center at 817-560-2452, ext. 102 and ask for Rev. Msgr. Stephen Berg.

Victims of sexual abuse can also call the sexual abuse hotline, 817-560-2452, ext. 900.

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FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Catholic Diocese settled a lawsuit Tuesday with a former Nolan Catholic High School student who said he was sexually abused by a priest. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

The lawsuit states that Rev. William Paiz abused John Doe No. 109 between 1982 and 1987, starting when the boy was 16. Doe, now in his 40s, filed suit in January stating he was sexually assaulted while at All Saints Catholic Church, St. George Catholic Church and other locations.

During that period, Paiz was a cleric at All Saints and St. George's Catholic Churches in Fort Worth, and taught religion at Nolan Catholic High School, according to the Fort Worth diocese.

"I really wanted to get Bill away from children," John Doe No. 109 said during a telephone interview with the Star-Telegram on Wednesday. "Those who have been abused should come forward. It will help to make a change and stop a predator from being able to repeat and hurt children. It's not about what happened to us, it's about what could happen to others."

The settlement agreement includes provisions that Paiz not work in a position that puts him in contact with any children, juveniles or young adults, and that he not be able to present himself as a priest, said Tahira Merritt, Doe's attorney.

The agreement also requires the Fort Worth diocese to publicly acknowledge that Doe's allegations against Paiz are credible, Merritt said. Paiz must also be supervised by officials with the Claretian Order, where he is still a priest, Merritt said.

Calls made to the Claretian Order and their attorneys to inquire about Paiz's status with the order Wednesday were not immediately returned.

"As far as I know, no other boys have come forward publicly. If there is one victim, historically, there are others," Merritt said.

The victim initially reported his abuse to church officials in April 2010, Merritt said. After almost two years of not getting answers regarding the status of the church's investigation or information on Paiz's current location or clerical status, Doe sought legal representation and filed a lawsuit, Merritt said.

Doe said church officials refused to put anything on paper for two years, and he was unaware that a statute of limitations deadline was approaching that would preclude him from seeking a civil remedy or filing criminal charges.

Pat Svacina, a spokesman for the Fort Worth diocese, said interchanges between someone who claims abuse against a priest are confidential. Those claiming abuse have several avenues within the church to address their grievances, Svacina said.

"They can take it to the bishop or a supervisor," Svacina said. "The bishop is always aware of these cases."

Historically, the church has been slow to react when church officials have been charged with abuse, said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"For years now, most bishops have been quietly but consistently backsliding in treating victims with compassion and being open in these cases," he said. "Policies, panels, procedures and protocols have been developed and it looks great on paper. But the sad truth is that behind closed doors, in diocese after diocese, there's been very little change. The fundamental reason is because the church is a monarchy. Every bishop is the lord of their own kingdom and they answer to no one."

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