The Jesuit order has agreed to a tentative payout of $16 million to settle claims that one of its priests sexually abused nine Los Angeles children over 16 years ending in 1975.
Mark Falvey was accused of molesting four girls and five boys between 1959 and 1975 at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in Hollywood. Falvey died 31 years ago and was never charged with a crime.
"One of his victims, an 8-year-old girl, tried to commit suicide," said the lawyer for the victims, Raymond P. Boucher.
"This guy brought a lifetime of misery to a group of young children. They'll never get over it," Boucher said.
The agreement in principle was confirmed by the Rev. Alfred Naucke of the California Province of the Society of Jesus. All of the parties still must sign the pact to make it official. Each victim will receive between $1.4 million and $1.6 million.
"I look forward to meeting the victims to apologize to them on behalf of the Society of Jesus," the Rev. John P. McGarry, who heads the order in California and the West Coast, said in a phone interview.
"We wish these brave victims well and hope that others who were hurt by clergy — Jesuits or others — will come forward so they can heal," said Barbara Blaine, an official with SNAP, a support group for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
"We also hope that anyone with suspicions or knowledge of Falvey's crimes will call the police. Even though he is deceased, prosecution of church officials who may have covered up his crimes may still be possible," Blaine said.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has been sued by more the 500 people claiming they were victims of clergy sexual abuse, did not contribute to the settlement.
Falvey served in Asia and was assigned in 1959 as assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood, where he apparently served until 1975, when he died.
The legal issues in the Falvey case, like in other clergy abuse lawsuits, turned on what the Jesuit order knew about the priest's sexual proclivities, and what its hierarchy did to protect churchgoers in Hollywood.
The evidence against the order was strong, Boucher said.
One victim was ready to testify that while he was being molested by Falvey in Hollywood, another priest blundered into the room.
"Why don't you close the door," Boucher said the priest scolded Falvey.
Boucher, who is the lead lawyer for all of the Los Angeles victims, called Falvey "one of the most evil priests that has ever walked the halls of a church."
"I agree with Mr. Boucher that Father Falvey was not handled correctly by the Jesuit order," McGarry said.
"He should have been removed from ministry" after the first victim.