Sept. 19 (UPI) — The Brooklyn diocese on Tuesday agreed to pay $27.5 million to settle a case in which four male juveniles accused a church volunteer of sexual abuse.
It is one of the largest settlements the Catholic Church has paid out of dozens of child sex abuse lawsuits involving hundreds of victims dating back to 1984.
The settlement will be split evenly among the victims, who will each receive $6,875,000.
“This is an extremely large settlement, and the size of the settlement has to be an indication of the severity of the abuse, and also of the pressure that the Catholic Church is under,” said Terry McKiernan, co-director and president of BishopAccountability.org, a site that tracks clergy sexual abuse cases, The New York Times reported.
Angelo Serrano, now 67, was a religion teacher at the now-closed St. Lucy-St. Patrick Catholic Church in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn between 2003 and 2009, when he was first arrested for sexually abusing a child.
Since that arrest, other victims between the ages of 8 and 12 came forward and Serrano pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual misconduct with a child in 2011 and is serving a 15-year sentence.
Attorneys for the four victims in Tuesday’s settlement said the church “knew or certainly should have known that Serrano was sexually abusing children.”
One priest testified to seeing Serrano kiss an 8- or 9-year-old boy on the mouth but did not report the incident. Other church workers saw Serrano set children on his lap and give them gifts in violation of church policy. And at least one victim said he is one of several children Serrano brought to his apartment and sexually abused.
The settlement comes at a time when the Catholic Church is again under scrutiny for covering up child sex abuse committed by its clergy members.
Last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury found evidence of widespread sexual abuse of children in the state’s Catholic churches dating back to 1947.
That was followed by the New York Attorney General’s Office issuing subpoenas to the state’s archdiocese and all seven dioceses for an investigation into how the Church has handled sexual abuse allegations.