Brooklyn diocese reaches $27.5m settlement over abuse by lay volunteer

Brooklyn Cathedral. Credit: Reading Tom via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Brooklyn Cathedral. Credit: Reading Tom via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

.- The Diocese of Brooklyn and an after-school program reached a $27.5 million settlement Tuesday with four men who were sexually abused as minors by a layman who volunteered at a parish in the New York City borough.

The men were abused between 2003 and 2009 by Angelo Serrano, 67, who taught catechism and helped to organized religious education at St. Lucy – St. Patrick's parish in Brooklyn. Serrano abused the boys, who were between the ages of 8 and 12, at the church, in his apartment, and at the after-school program. Serrano received a stipend from the church, and had a desk there.

“The diocese and another defendant have settled these lawsuits brought by the four claimants who were sexually abused by Angelo Serrano at his private apartment many years ago,” the Brooklyn diocese said in a Sept. 18 statement, the New York Times reported. “Mr. Serrano was a volunteer worker at a local parish; he was not clergy or an employee of the diocese or parish.”

A portion of the settlement is being paid by the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center, an after-school program located next to the parish.

Serrano was arrested in 2009, and is now serving a 15-year sentence.

A suit against the diocese was set to go to trial next year, had the diocese not settled.

The victims' suit listed the then-pastors of St. Lucy – St. Patrick's, Fr. Stephen P. Lynch and Fr. Frank Shannon, as co-defendants.

According to the New York Times, a judge wrote that “The record is clear that Lynch and Shannon had knowledge that for years Serrano often had several boys, including plaintiff, sleep over at his apartment … In fact, both Lynch and Shannon testified that they visited Serrano on numerous occasions when young boys were present.”

Fr. Lynch testified, the Times reported, that he saw Serrano “kiss an 8- or 9-year-old boy on the mouth and inappropriately embrace the boy.”

A secretary at the parish, Beatrice Ponnelle, also testified about Serrano's behavior with minors.

Earlier this month, the New York attorney general issued subpoenas to the state's dioceses asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.”

Tags: Catholic News, New York, Abuse of minors, Sex abuse