Trenton Diocese to pay $1M to settle sex abuse claims

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The Catholic Diocese of Trenton has agreed to pay $1 million to five men who claimed their parish priest sexually abused them when they were altar boys 30 years ago.

The settlements, announced today, bring to $1.3 million the amount the diocese has paid to alleged abuse victims of the Rev. Ronald Becker. Becker was removed from the ministry in 2002. He has since died.

Becker molested the five boys at Incarnation parish in Ewing hundreds of times between 1972 and 1984, in spans that ranged from six months to four years, according to Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based lawyer who represented the men. The abuse occurred in the church, the rectory and on trips.

The men came forward after another of Becker’s victims went public with her allegations two years ago. The settlements followed months of mediation.

One of the victims, 45-year-old Otis Roberts, said he came forward in part to protect his 11 year-old-son, who is now the same age he was when Roberts was molested. Trembling as he read a statement, Roberts said the abuse destroyed his life and his faith.

“I don’t believe in the church anymore,” Roberts said. “I believe it’s a business. And I saw that during mediation.”

The Diocese admitted no liability and did not apologize to the men, their lawyers said.

In a statement released today, the Diocese confirmed the settlement and noted that in addition to the $200,000 for each victim, “an additional $25,000 [will be} made available for counseling needs of the five victims in the next two years.”

Further, it said, “The settlement is being paid from a self-insurance fund previously established by the Diocese.

The settlement is the latest in a series of payouts nationally over abuse claims. Earlier this month, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a Delaware-based religious order with priests throughout the region, agreed to pay $24 million to settle 39 lawsuits by alleged sex abuse victims. And the Diocese of Wilmington, which was forced by a wave of abuse claims to file for bankruptcy, has agreed to set aside more than $77 million for 150 abuse victims. Other settlements have been reached in Corpus Christi, Pueblo, Colo. and Kansas City, Mo.

More than a half-dozen similar claims are pending against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, all filed in the wake of the arrests of four current and former priests and grand jury report that accused the archdiocese of failing to reform.

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