Monday, December 6, 2010

Delaware jury holds Catholic parish liable for priest’s abuse

In a rare decision, a Catholic parish has been held liable for the actions of a priest in the amount of $3 million.

A Delaware jury has ordered St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington to pay the damages to sex abuse victim John Vai.

The Kent County Superior Court jury said the parish was negligent in its supervision of former priest Francis DeLucia when he was assigned there.

The jury also awarded Vai $30 million from DeLuca, who has admitted he abused Vai in the late 1960s.

Vai charged that Msgr. Thomas Cini, when he was a young parish priest, saw Vai going to DeLuca’s room at the parish rectory and failed to act, the Delaware News Journal reports. Msgr. Cini, now vicar general of the Diocese of Wilmington, gave testimony denying that he saw Vai or any other young child in the rectory or in the area of the priest’s bedroom.

The jury will hear evidence for punitive damages next week. Vai’s lawyers, Thomas S. Neuberger and Stephen J. Neuberger, said they had saved their most damaging evidence for this phase, the New York Times says.

Parishes have previously been held liable for abuse by priests only in one or two cases. Normally a diocese or religious order is held responsible for damage. The Diocese of Wilmington declared bankruptcy last year.

Vai was able to bring his case to court because Delaware passed special “window” laws temporarily lifting the statutes of limitations. California is the only other state that has allowed the suspension of the statute of limitations for abuse cases.

Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington conveyed a “sincere apology” to Vai for the suffering he experienced. However, he said he was “disappointed that the jury found the people of St. Elizabeth’s liable” for the former priest’s actions.

“It is unfortunate that the parish community of Saint Elizabeth’s is being made to pay for the criminal and sinful acts of someone who was assigned by the diocesan bishop at the time to be one of their priests,” he added in a Dec. 1 statement.

Bishop Malooly maintained that the bishop of the diocese is responsible for the actions of the priest in his diocese.


  1. Seems that only those guilty parties should pay.

    An entire Parish should not be held liable. People in the Parish do not choose who the Bishop assigns to their Church.

  2. That's right 'cause Communion only means what we want it to mean as long as we want it to mean it. If it becomes inconvenient, then to hell with it. It's not like we're all part of the same body or anything ridiculous like that!