Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hartford settles molestation lawsuit

A man who alleged he was sexually abused by former Connecticut police chaplain, Fr. Stephen Foley, says the Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to settle his lawsuit for $750,000.

Newsday reports that William Noll of Florida alleged in his 2005 lawsuit that the Fr. Stephen Foley repeatedly molested him in 1978 while Foley was associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Windsor Locks.

He said the molestations took place in Foley's car which he had set up as a police cruiser with strobe lights, a siren and a medallion identifying him as the state police chaplain.

As a result of the molestations, Noll, now 45, said he experienced years of mental health counseling for depression, anxiety and suicide attempts. He continues to receive counseling to assist him in coping with these problems.

"My client is pleased that he can finally have some closure to this most troubling part of his childhood that has haunted him for over 30 years," said Noll's attorney, Robert I. Reardon, Jr. "There is great relief in not facing the prospect of a trial and being required to relive these molestations in a court of law. He will be using these funds to obtain necessary mental health care that will assist him in moving forward with his life."

The archdiocese has settled about a dozen sexual abuse cases against Foley, who is still a priest but has been ordered not to perform any church duties. Reardon has settled four lawsuits against Foley, with the total settlement exceeding $2.7 million

The Fr. John Gatzak, spokesman for the archdiocese, confirmed the settlement.

"The archdiocese is doing everything humanly possible to see to it that history is not repeated," Gatzak said. "We are committed to protecting our children and young people and making a contribution to society for other groups and organizations to do what the church is doing to protect children."

The archdiocese has taken extensive efforts in recent years, including issuing a code of conduct for priests and deacons, conducting background checks on all employees and volunteers who work with young people and implemented a mandatory training program on how to recognize and report sexual abuse, Gatzak said. Church officials also started a prevention program in schools, he said.

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(Source: CTHUS)