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VOL. 124 | NO. 39 | Thursday, February 26, 2009

Memphis Catholic Diocese and Dominicans Settle Priest Abuse Case For $2 Million

By Bill Dries

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The Catholic Diocese of Memphis and the Dominican religious order have settled a lawsuit claiming a Memphis Priest sexually abused a teenager with a $2 million payment to the victim.

The dollar figure is the largest publicly disclosed in any of the lawsuits filed alleging child sexual abuse by Memphis Catholic priest.

A settlement with the diocese was announced Feb. 16 in Circuit Court leaving the claim against the Dominicans. A settlement of the John Doe claim against the Dominicans was announced Thursday morning (Feb. 26) before Circuit Court Judge Charles O. McPherson.

Attorney Gary K. Smith, representing the victim, told The Daily News the Diocese of Memphis has agreed to pay $1.55 million dollars and the Dominicans have agreed to pay another $450,000.

The victim and his family reported in 2000 that Father Juan Carlos Duran had sexually abused him. He was 14 years old at the time. Duran was a Dominican priest assigned to Church of the Ascension in Raleigh in 1999. Duran was the first priest the Diocese had hired to minister to the city’s growing Hispanic population. Like Duran, John Doe is also from Bolivia. The abuse of the boy lasted approximately six weeks in early 2000.

“There were two important facets the settlement. I think it reasonably compensates my client for being victimized,” Smith told The Daily News. “This case helped bring light to how this problem happened to begin with, how it occurred on other occasions with other victims and what needed to be done to fix it and prevent it happening again.”

Steven Vescovo, the attorney representing The Order of Preachers – also known as The Dominicans, said he was pleased “we were able to resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Asked if the case has changed the way the religious order deals with instances of child sexual abuse, Vescovo said the order has changed because of the allegations that have plagued the Catholic church in recent years.

“It’s hard for me to say this case in particular. What’s happened everywhere has forced everybody to take a long hard look at what they were doing and how they were conducting business,” he said.

Read more about the case and the settlement in Friday's edition of The Daily News.

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