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Diocese of Trenton Settles Priest Sexual Abuse Claims with Five Former Altar Boys

Aug 17, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Acknowledging their claims were credible, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, confirmed that it has reached a settlement with five former altar boys who said they were molested by a priest.  All five ex-altar servers - now middle-aged adults- had alleged that they were molested by Rev. Ronald Becker in the 1970s and 1980s, while he served at Incarnation Church in Ewing, New Jersey. 

Becker, the priest at the center of the Trenton settlement, was arrested for abusing his own niece four years ago, but died in 2009 before he could come to trial.  The men involved in this settlement decided to go public with their allegations after Becker's niece came forward. 

Becker, who was officially removed from active ministry in 2002, was named in an abuse allegation made to the Trenton Diocese in 1989, The Washington Post reported.   But instead of filing a police report, the Diocese sent him away for treatment.  When he returned, he was given a job that did not involve interaction with children, church officials claim.

One of the men involved in this lawsuit said he was abused by Becker on 150 occasions. According to their lawyer, Becker told the boys the abuse “was a physical act that would show the love of God."

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. 

Despite acknowledging that the men's claims of sexual abuse were credible and urging other victims to come forward, the Diocese's statement did not express remorse or offer Becker's victims any type of apology.

This is just the latest sad chapter in the priest sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the U.S. Catholic Church over the past few decades.  According to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, following the arrest of four current and former priests on molestation charges, the Archdiocese o Philadelphia was hit with six lawsuits.  A recent grand jury report accused church leaders there of failing in their pledge to remove abusive clergy and respond to their victims.

Priest molestation scandals forced the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware into bankruptcy, and it has set aside millions to fund settlements for 150 victims.  Recently, sexual abuse settlements with victims of priest abuse were announced in Corpus Christi, Texas; Pueblo, Colorado, and Kansas City, Missouri.  The Delaware-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales agreed to pay $24 million to end 39 claims by alleged sex-abuse victims earlier this month, according to the Inquirer.

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