Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family of St. Pete clergy sex victim gets settlement; SNAP responds

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell,

Time and time again, St. Louis Catholics and church officials vilified former St. Pete resident Michael Powel. Now, Michael has again been vindicated.

The Bridgeport Post reports that Catholic officials there have paid $200,000 to Powel’s family. (In 2009, Catholic officials in St. Louis also paid his family a settlement, though the amount was not disclosed.)

When he began speaking up in 2002, when the church’s abuse and cover up scandal was at a fever pitch, many found it easy to dismiss Powel’s claims. In two separate lawsuits, Powel said five men in two states molested him and that he repressed some of the memories until he began suffering from brain cancer. None of the accused had ever been charged with or sued for abuse before.

Powel was vilified by many skeptical lay Catholics and several callous Catholic officials.

Three of the accused were Connecticut men: Carlo Fabbozzi, a parish gardener, a parish priest named Fr. Joseph Gorecki and a former Boy Scout troop leader. Two were Chaminade clerics: Brother John Woulfe and the Rev. William Christiansen - who taught at a Chaminade.

But despite his death in 2008, Powel has, over time, largely been vindicated. Woulfe was later convicted of abusing a child in Illinois. In a 2005 trial, a Connecticut parish employee was found guilty of molesting Powel. In 2009, Powel’s family quietly settled with a St. Louis Catholic school where two of the predators worked. Three months ago, it was disclosed that Christensen is reportedly being defrocking by the Vatican officials due to 30 allegations of molesting kids in Bangladesh. And today, a Connecticut newspaper reports that the Bridgeport diocese has reached a settlement of $200,000 with Powel’s family over his abuse there by a Fr. Joseph Gorecki, who was also accused by seven other boys.

We hope those who criticized and disbelieved Michael will take note – four of the five men he said molested him have, in one form or fashion, been essentially been deemed “credibly accused” by a jury or by Catholic officials.

We hope church employees and members will publicly apologize to Michael’s family for their insensitive actions.

A key lesson to be learned here is that when victims are strong enough to persevere and wise enough to take legal action, sometimes justice can be done and wrongdoers can be exposed.

Several attorneys helped Michael and his family through this long ordeal. We are grateful to each of them. We’re also grateful to Michael’s loved ones, who didn’t let his pursuit of justice end with his death. And most of all, we’re grateful to Michael for his astonishing courage and indomitable spirit.

(In St. Louis, Powel was represented by Joseph Bauer. In Connecticut, he was represented by Helen McGonigle. His family was represented by Michael Reck of the Newport Beach CA-based Manly Stewart law firm.)

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