Fort Worth Diocese settles another priest abuse claim

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has reached a settlement this week with one of the victims reportedly abused by former priest James Reilly.

The settlement was reached through mediation, and the victim asked to remain anonymous, according to a news release from the diocese. The terms of the settlement were also confidential.

Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina said he didn't have additional details as to whether the settlement was based on a lawsuit or just a mediated settlement.

In a statement shared with the victim, Monsignor Stephen Berg, the diocesan administrator, said he is deeply sorry for any sexual abuse and suffering the victim may have endured from Reilly.

"The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and I are committed to ensuring that the diocese's policies are adhered to so we can prevent future tragedy such as that which has befallen the victims of abuse," he said. "The diocese has been and is committed to being in compliance with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Bishops of the United States in 2002."

The charter is a set of procedures established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The charter includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.

Reilly was parish priest at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington from 1969 to 1987. He moved to Philadelphia, and died in 1999.

Tahira Kahn Merritt, a Dallas attorney who represented 26 men who said they were abused by Reilly, said she is not representing the person who settled with the diocese this week.

Although files on Reilly were released, Merritt said a culture of "secrecy" still exists.

"I think more needs to be done in terms of transparency," she said. "Look at the cases in the Fort Worth and Dallas dioceses and throughout Texas. There is a pattern similar to what we're seeing in California. Priests were moved around and allowed to gain access."

Less than three months after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released the files of priests accused of sex abuse, attorneys for the victims are back in court seeking similar records kept by more than a dozen religious orders.

The courts are trying to decide the process of determining if the records kept by the religious orders such as the Jesuits, Vincentians, Salesians and Dominicans, among others, will be made public.

She said abuse was brought to light because of the courage of victims and the legal system.

Merritt said her 26 clients were altar boys.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz

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