Fort Worth Diocese Settles Abuse Suit Over Priests

March 6, 2009

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, has reached another settlement involving sexual abuse claims against a priest who died in 1999, including one case of alleged abuse by two other now-dead priests.

Most of the $775,000 settlement, reached through mediation, was covered by the diocese’s insurance company, church officials said.

The five people said they were sexually abused by the Rev. James Reilly, who served at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington from 1969 through 1987, when he retired. Reilly then moved to Philadelphia and died in 1999.

Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina said he could not reveal any specifics, such as their genders or dates of the alleged abuse.

One of the cases involved the Rev. James Hanlon – who served at churches in Bedford, Fort Worth, North Richland Hills, Arlington, Ranger, Strawn, Eastland and Cisco in the 1980s – and the Rev. Gerard Scholl, a teacher and campus minister in Arlington, Keller and Santa Fe, N.M., from 1970 to the 1990s.

Hanlon died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1990, and Scholl died in 2002, according to records.

The Rev. Kevin Vann, bishop of the Fort Worth diocese, said he is deeply sorry for any sexual abuse the victims may have suffered by the three priests, and that he prays for their healing and reconciliation.

“As the pastor of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, I am committed to ensuring that the diocese’s policies are adhered to so we can prevent future tragedy such as that which has befallen the victims of abuse,” Vann said in a statement.

Vann previously said the diocese has actively sought victims of abuse in the church where Reilly was assigned. Among the diocese’s settlements in recent years were a lawsuit filed by 11 men who said Reilly sexually abused them when they were altar boys, a 2006 settlement that included at least $1 million and payment for one year of counseling for each man.

In late 2006 a judge released about 700 pages of documents relating to six Fort Worth diocese priests – including Reilly and Hanlon – accused of sexually abusing minors. The files had been sealed as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit that was settled in 2005.

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