17 Oct 2008

Miami Archdiocese issues rare apology in sex-abuse case

Miami Herald - October 17, 2008

The Archdiocese of Miami and a teenage girl who claimed she was assaulted by a Catholic Church youth minister in 2006 reached a settlement.

by Jay Weaver

In a rare public act of contrition regarding a sexual abuse claim, the Archdiocese of Miami has issued an apology in a settlement with a teenage girl who claimed a Pinecrest Catholic Church youth minister assaulted her during a 2006 field trip.

Last year, the teenage girl, whose name was not made public, had alleged in a lawsuit that the pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church, the Rev. James Fetscher, was aware of sexual misconduct by youth minister Anthony B. Ricco, then 19, as far back as 2004 but did not report it to authorities as required by law.

She claimed Ricco had assaulted her during a Vermont field trip and other activities in 2006.

In a statement posted on its website and published in the Florida Catholic newspaper, the Archdiocese of Miami said it ''amicably resolved'' the case.

''The Archdiocese of Miami extends an apology to Jane Doe 31 for its role in the harm caused to her and asks for prayers for all those in the youth ministry who were adversely impacted by such events,'' the statement said. ``The Archdiocese of Miami will continue to prevent future violations.''

Jeffrey Herman, attorney for the 15-year-old victim, said Thursday he could not disclose the monetary settlement. He noted the church apology -- required as part of the settlement -- was unprecedented.

''This is the first time that I'm aware of that the archdiocese has ever done that,'' said Herman, who has brought and settled dozens of sexual-abuse cases against the archdiocese. ``Had they followed their own policies, it never would have happened.''

Last year, an archdiocese spokeswoman had strongly denied the accusation, saying church officials first learned of the allegations in April 2007 when Pinecrest police notified them about plans to arrest the youth minister at his home.

But Herman said other girls complained about Ricco to the youth group's supervisor, Paul Herring, who, in turn, informed the pastor. Fetscher did not remove him from the parish in affluent Pinecrest or alert parishioners or authorities about his misconduct, Herman said.

Herman said the girl's parents went to the Pinecrest police as soon as they learned Ricco had sex with their daughter.

In December 2006, Ricco pleaded no contest to nine counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a child between 12 and 16 -- including the alleged victim who filed suit. He was sentenced to two years of house arrest and 10 years probation.

The criminal charges involved two female victims -- ages 13 and 15 at the time of the alleged offenses -- who alleged Ricco touched their private parts under their clothing. He was then 18.

As part of his plea agreement with the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, the judgment against Ricco was withheld by Circuit Judge William Thomas.

That means Ricco, a first-time offender, technically has no criminal record.

A national group that represents sex-abuse victims of Catholic priests said the Miami archdiocese's apology doesn't go far enough.

''Vulnerable kids need protection, not apologies,'' said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

``The archbishop needs to be using his considerable resources to find more victims and witnesses of this predator's crimes and urge them to call police, so he can be prosecuted further and kids can be safer.''

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment