Philadelphia archdiocese settles sexual abuse lawsuit

Associated Press/August 20, 2015

Philadelphia -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has settled a lawsuit brought by a man whose priest-abuse complaints helped prosecutors bring the first child-endangerment case against a Church official.

The 26-year-old man accused two Catholic priests and a teacher of molesting him at a northeast Philadelphia parish in the 1990s. They were all convicted, and the archdiocese’s longtime secretary for clergy, Monsignor William Lynn, was convicted over his handling of abuse complaints at a high-profile 2012 trial.

The man, identified in court documents as “Billy Doe,” has now settled his claims against the archdiocese and two former Church officials, according to a court filing Tuesday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The agreement is at least the third this year between the Church and its accusers, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday.

The man’s accusations were part of a landmark 2011 grand jury report outlining decades of clergy sexual abuse in the region. He told grand jurors he was passed among three men and repeatedly sexually assaulted while serving as an altar boy at St. Jerome’s parish.

His testimony at a 2013 trial helped convict the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, an English teacher at the parish school. A third abuser — Edward V. Avery, now defrocked — pleaded guilty in 2012 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He has recanted his confession, but remains in prison.

Lynn is serving a three- to six-year term while appealing his conviction.

In his lawsuit, the man says the abuse destroyed his life and led to years of drug abuse, behavioral problems and suicide attempts.

Lawyers for priests and the archdiocese have questioned his testimony, accusing him of fabricating his claims to cash in by suing the church.

Shero, Avery, and Engelhardt’s estate remain parties to the lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for November. Engelhardt died in prison last year while appealing his conviction.

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