3 Dec 2010

Catholic Diocese of Charlotte pays $1 million to former altar boy molested by priest in church rectory

Charlotte Observer - May 7, 2010

Catholic diocese to pay $1 million to molestation victim

By Gary L. Wright | Charlotte Observer

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has agreed to pay $1 million for a priest's molestation of a teenage boy more than a decade ago.

The diocese has also agreed to pay for counseling for Robby Price, who is now 25 and living out of state. He was an altar boy at Charlotte's St. Matthew Catholic Church in 1999 when he was molested.

The Rev. Robert Yurgel was sentenced in February 2009 to nearly eight years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree sex offense.

Yurgel, a member of the order of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in New Jersey, had been assigned to St. Matthew and Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in the late 1990s.

"The sexual abuse of children, particularly by those they trust and especially by those in the ministry, causes extensive mental and emotional damage and trauma," Seth Langson, one of Price's lawyers, told the Observer.

"Robby, like most victims, was unable to even speak of the abuse to his parents for many years. At the end of 2007, he courageously came forward and began telling others what happened to him. He wanted then to make sure that Father Yurgel never hurt another child."

The Catholic diocese reported Friday in its weekly newspaper that no parish collections will be used to pay the settlement. The diocese's liability insurance will cover the costs.

"In settling the case the diocese admitted to no wrongdoing and avoided the expense of a lengthy trial," the article said. Diocese officials have said they didn't know about Price's molestation until Yurgel was arrested in New Jersey in 2008.

"My prayers continue to go out to the plaintiff in this case and to all victims of sexual abuse in the hope that they may find the healing they seek," Bishop Peter Jugis said.

Revelations of child sexual abuse by priests - and sometimes cover-ups by their bishops - have scandalized many Catholic dioceses across the country. The Catholic Church has paid more than $2 billion in abuse settlements in the United States alone in the past decade.

Yurgel's case is the first made public involving a Catholic priest in which the sexual misconduct happened in Charlotte.

Price's lawyers say they believe the $1 million payment by the Catholic diocese is one of the largest settlements paid in North Carolina by a religious organization for the sexual abuse of a child.

The Observer doesn't generally disclose the names of victims of sexual assault and abuse. But Price allowed his identity to be revealed to tell his story.

During Yurgel's sentencing last year, the prosecutor told the judge that Price was 14 when Yurgel began molesting him. The victim was 15, the prosecutor said, when Yurgel molested him in a church rectory.

Price confronted the priest who had molested him.

His voice sometimes quivering, Price told Yurgel he'd stolen his faith and childhood and robbed him of his ability to trust.

"To this day I suffer with horrible flashbacks and nightmares", Price said. "You are a liar, a thief of childhoods and a child molester."

Yurgel did not look at the victim or his parents. Nor did he apologize.

His lawyer, George Laughrun, spoke for him: "He crossed the line. He knows better. He knows he has sinned."

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