14 Lawsuits Claiming Abuse by Fl. Clergy Settled for $1.6 Million

The Associated Press, carried in Herald Tribune
July 19, 2006

Miami -- Fourteen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy at two Florida dioceses and a former Tampa boarding school have been settled for more than $1.6 million, an attorney who represented all the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

Two lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a Diocese of Orlando priest in the 1970s were settled for a total of $250,000, Miami attorney Jeffrey Herman said.

Diocese spokeswoman Carol Brinati declined to release additional details about the settlement, but said it was reached more than a month ago and the total was less than $250,000.

Both lawsuits claimed the diocese knew about allegations of sexual abuse by Vernon Uhran as early as 1969, yet no disciplinary action was taken and he was allowed to continue working in central Florida churches.

One plaintiff, identified only as John Doe No. 4, was a 14-year-old altar boy at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs when Uhran sexually abused him 10 times in 1971 during a three-month cross-country trip he took with the priest and several other boys.

The second plaintiff, referred to only as John Doe No. 5, claimed Uhran sexually molested him in 1973 at the Church of the Resurrection in Lakeland, when he was 9 years old, and in 1976 at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview. On both occasions, Uhran had offered to supervise the boy at the churches' rectories while his parents were on vacation.

A Florida phone listing could not be found for Uhran, who was removed from the diocese in 1992 after an allegation of sexual abuse was made against him.

"Child sexual abuse is criminal and sinful. It is not tolerated in the Diocese of Orlando," Brinati said.

She added that the diocese initiated a background and fingerprint program in 1997, and any employee credibly accused of sexual misconduct is removed from their position and reported to law enforcement.

The settlement of six lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Miami for a total $750,000 was also announced Wednesday.

"As the Catholic church, in particular the archdiocese, we are moving forward to bring closure to any allegations so we may bring peace and resolution to everyone involved," said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, who added the settlement was reached three weeks ago.

Six lawsuits claiming sexual abuse was "rampant" at the former Mary Help of Christians School, operated by the Salesian Religious Order in Tampa, were settled for a total of $625,000, Herman said.

A message left after hours for officials of the after school programs operating at the former Tampa boarding school was not immediately returned.

"I am happy that we are able to give the victims some closure. Hopefully, healing may come from this," Herman said in statements announcing the 14 settlements.


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