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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 5 December 2021

Priest's sex victim awarded highest-ever clerical abuse payout of $30m

Parish in which abuse happened is held liable for part of the award as victim argues other priests knew what was going on.

A MAN WHO was sexually abused more than 100 times by a Catholic priest has been awarded $30m (€22.7m) by a jury – the largest payout ever to a clergy abuse victim.

John M Vai is one of seven people who have filed lawsuits against former priest Francis DeLuca, who was defrocked by the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, USA in 2008. The New York Times is reporting that the parish in which the abuse was perpetrated, St Elizabeth in Wilmington, is liable for $3m of the damages and Francis DeLuca must pay the rest.

Victims’ advocacy group bishopaccountability.org has found that parishes have only been held liable for damages in one or two cases previous to this, with the overall diocese or religious order more frequently bearing the weight. Evidence on punitive damages is to be heard this coming Monday – and Mr Vai’s lawyers say that it will be extremely damning and will increases the award to their client.

However, The Delaware News Journal says that, according to DeLuca’s former attorney, the ex-priest “has little money, so the chances of that full award being paid are next to none”.

Recent changes in Delaware law temporarily lifted the statutes of limitations – this has allowed cases like this one, which features abuse that happened in the 1960s, to be heard.

In this case, the parish was held accountable by Mr Vai for allowing his abuse to continue. He testified that he had been seen by another priest, being hauled to DeLuca’s room as a young boy. Another witness, the Rev Thomas Doyle, said that other priests in the parish were aware of DeLuca’s behaviour at the time.

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