Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton Settles with Ex-Altar Boys over Priest Sexual Abuse Claims

A group of former New Jersey altar boys – now all middle-aged men – will receive more than $1 million in a settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton over claims that they were <"">molested by a priest. According to The Washington Post, the men had claimed they were sexually abused by the Catholic priest in the 1970s and 1980s when they served at Incarnation Church in Ewing, New Jersey.

According to the Diocese of Trenton, each victim will receive $200,000, plus an additional $25,000 to cover therapy costs incurred over the next two years. The Diocese of Trenton confirmed that settlement was reached in June, and said in a statement that it had found the allegations against the priest to be credible. While the statement called for other victims to speak out, it didn’t mention remorse or offer an apology for what the men endured as children, the Post said.

All of the victims involved in the settlement said they were molested by Rev. Ronald Becker, who died in 2009. The molestation occurred while the men were between the ages of 11 and 16 years. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Becker served in parishes in the Trenton area from 1973 to 1989, and was officially removed from active ministry in 2002.

The men involved in this settlement came forward after Becker’s niece publicly accused him of molesting her four years ago. Becker was arrested in his niece’s case, but died before coming to trial. The Diocese settled with his niece for $325,000, the Inquirer said.

One of the victims involved in this settlement said he had been molested by Becker 150 times at the church, as well as during trips with the priest to Washington, D.C., and other locations. According to their lawyer, Becker told the boys the abuse “was a physical act that would show the love of God,” the Post said.

Like many other cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the Diocese of Trenton was made aware of allegations against Becker decades before any of his victims made their accusations public. According to The Washington Post, an allegation was made against Becker in 1989, but the Diocese did not make a report to police. Instead, he was sent away for treatment. When he returned, the Diocese said he was given a position that did not involve interaction with children.

Unfortunately, adult victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy are usually not able to file lawsuits against their molesters or enablers in New Jersey because of the state’s two-year statute of limitations on such lawsuits. According to the Post, a bill that would lift the statute of limitations has been stuck in both houses of the state legislature since last December.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, this is just the latest child sexual abuse settlement paid out by a Roman Catholic entity in recent years. Earlier this month, the Delaware-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales agreed to pay $24 million to end 39 claims by alleged sex-abuse victims. Similar settlements have been reached in Corpus Christi, Texas; Pueblo, Colorado, and Kansas City, Missouri. Abuse claims forced the Diocese of Wilmington into bankruptcy, and it has agreed to set aside more than $77 million for 150 victims.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is fighting a half-dozen child sexual abuse lawsuits, following the arrest of four current and former priests on molestation charges, the Inquirer said. A recent grand jury report accused church leaders there of failing in their pledge to remove abusive clergy and respond to their victims.

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