The Order of Saint Augustine, a Catholic order, will pay a second settlement to compensate clergy sexual abuse survivors. The order has agreed to pay $1.4 million to 11 survivors who were sexually abused at St. Mary’s School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The settlement was reached in February 2020. In 2018, the order settled with three other victims of the same priest.
The latest settlement includes one man and 10 women who were abused by Father John J. Gallagher at St. Mary’s School in the 1970s. Gallagher died in 2006.
An attorney for the survivors praised the settlement for his clients.
“It is an honor to represent these eleven courageous clergy sexual abuse victims. By coming forward, these courageous clergy sexual abuse victims have empowered themselves, other sexual abuse victims and made the world a safer place for children.”
Sexual Abuse At St. Mary’s School
Gallagher was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption parish and taught in the parish school between 1974 and 1978, during which time he abused the victims. At the time of the abuse, the victims ranged from ages 8 to 14 years old. Today, they are in their mid-fifties.
The victims state Gallagher abused them in the gym and cafeteria at St. Mary’s and the Lawrence Reform School swimming pool. One victim was given alcohol before one abuse incident. Some were abused on multiple occasions or for years.
Additional Settlements Involving Gallagher
St. Mary’s School was not the only school at which Gallagher taught. Like many clergy members accused of sex abuse, Gallagher held assignments in several different dioceses during his career. He taught at schools in several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and Massachusetts. Gallagher was also a basketball and swim coach with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).
This is the second time the Order of Saint Augustine has settled claims involving Gallagher. In 2018, it paid $1 million to eight abuse victims. Three of the eight victims were abused by Gallagher, while five were abused by another priest.
At the time of the abuse, the three victims of Gallagher, who were all girls, were between the ages of 9 and 13 years old. The abuse in these cases occurred between 1972 and 1978.
Catholic Church Response To Sexual Abuse
Catholic dioceses and schools across the country have come under legal fire for sexual abuse cases. Many Catholic entities have settled with victims to avoid lengthy litigation.
In addition to settlement strategies, some dioceses have filed for bankruptcy and imposed deadlines on victim claims. Critics of these procedures say they allow the Catholic Church to sidestep justice and limit victims’ rights to receive civil compensation.
The Catholic Church’s failure to protect children from sexual abuse has led to nationwide outrage. Gallagher and other abusive clergy members used their positions to take advantage of and sexually abuse children.
Victims Of Catholic Priest Abuse
As clergy sexual abuse cases have gained media attention, more victims have shared their experiences. Many of these victims are seeking legal justice.
In child sexual abuse cases, many survivors do not come forward until they are adults. Survivors may wait to disclose the abuse for several reasons, including confusion, denial, fear, shame, self-blame or their relationship with the abuser. Seeking civil retribution can be part of the healing process for some victims.
Many states are currently allowing victims to bring claims that previously expired under the statute of limitations. Survivors who suffered from the church sex abuse should speak with an attorney about their cases as soon as possible to learn about their options.
Capelouto, J.D. (2018, July 17). Catholic order pays $1m settlement to 8 victims of clergy sex abuse dating back decades. Boston Globe.
Edelstein, B. (2020, August 26). Church settles sex abuse cases for $1.4M. The Eagle-Tribune.
LACASA Center. (N.D.) Why Children Don’t Tell: Sandusky case sheds light on complexities of child sexual abuse.
Sobey, R. (2020, August 27). 11 victims who claim Lawrence priest sexually abused them settle for $1.4M: Mitchell Garabedian. Boston Herald.