TRLF Settles Priest Molestation Case for $750,000

Church Settles For $750,000 In Priest Molestation Case

Karen Florin Day Staff Writer, Courts

Publication: The Day

Published 01/28/2009

The Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to pay $750,000 to a man who says he was molested as a boy by the Rev. Stephen Foley, a former state police chaplain, according to New London attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr.

As a condition of the settlement, the archdiocese and Foley agreed to make available to the public a videotaped deposition of Foley, Reardon said.

Reardon said his client, William Noll, required this condition to assist victims in their pending priest molestation cases. Copies of the videotape are available, upon request, from Reardon's office at (860) 442-0444.

Noll alleged in a 2005 lawsuit that Foley repeatedly molested him while serving as associate pastor of the St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church in Windsor Locks. Noll, who was 14 at the time, said the molestations took place in Foley's car, which he had set up as a police cruiser with strobe lights, a siren and a medallion identifying him as the state police chaplain.

The case was scheduled to go to trial next month.

As a result of the molestation, Noll, who is 45, suffered from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and remains in counseling, according to Reardon.

"My client is pleased that he can finally have some closure to this most troubling part of his childhood that has haunted him for over 30 years," Reardon said. "There is great relief in not facing the prospect of a trial and being required to relive those molestations in a court of law."

Noll, who lives in Florida, will be using the funds to "obtain necessary mental health care that will assist him in moving forward in his life," according to Reardon.

Reardon has settled four lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by Foley for more than $2.7 million, and the archdiocese has paid settlements in an additional eight cases involving Foley.

Foley often spent time in Niantic, and in one of the Reardon cases, plaintiff F. Glen Sutherland claimed he was molested at a cottage in the Crescent Beach section. The church settled that lawsuit for $599,000.

Foley, who is 67, lives out of state and receives a stipend from the archdiocese but is not allowed to promote himself as a priest, wear clerical garb or perform any kind of ministry.

"For practical purposes, he can no longer function as a priest," said the Rev. John Gatzak, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Gatzak said the archdiocese does not comment on the specifics of settlements. He outlined the Catholic Church's efforts in recent years "to make sure we don't repeat history."

"What the Church is doing is actually quite extensive because we realize how horrific sexual abuse is," Gatzak said. "We've taken steps to ensure that one of the safest places to be is within church-related events."

Every priest, employee and volunteer undergoes a background check to ensure they are suitable to interact with children. Adults learn about recognizing and reporting sexual abuse, and children in Catholic schools and religious education classes are taught to differentiate between "good touch" and "bad touch," how to recognize some of the "lures" somebody might use to entrap them, and who they should tell if they feel they have been inappropriately touched.

"Across the board, the church is trying to do everything possible to ensure the safety of young children and to make sure," he said.