The St. Louis Archdiocese has agreed to pay $1.675 million to the family of the boy sexually abused by Father Gary P. Wolken.
The amount is the highest paid for the settlement of a sexual-abuse case involving an archdiocesan priest.
Wolken, 38, was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of sodomy and child molestation. He had been a friend of the victim, now 11, and his family, and the criminal acts occurred over a three-year period.
The archdiocese’s attorney, Bernard Huger, told the Review this week that the archdiocese agreed to pay the amount because the victim and his family’s situation was "beyond" the usual healing process that is the goal of negotiations in clergy sex-abuse cases.
"We evaluated it, and we thought it was necessary to settle it," Huger said. "We still have a goal as a diocese to help people toward healing," Huger added.
He said the family’s lawyer first asked for $2 million.
The archdiocese will demand that its insurance company pay the settlement, Huger said.
He said "approximately 20" sexual-abuse cases involving archdiocesan priests were unresolved.
The archdiocese also responded this week to a civil lawsuit charging Father Bryan Kuchar with sexual abuse. Kuchar was sentenced last year to three years in the St. Louis County Jail after being found guilty on three counts of sodomy with a minor in 1995.
The statement said archdiocesan officials had no knowledge of any "inappropriate conduct" by Kuchar before his arrest April 10, 2002.
The statement from the archdiocese noted:
"Over the years the archdiocese has encouraged people to come forward with reports of abuse. Unfortunately in this case, the archdiocese has learned from the criminal proceedings leading to Bryan Kuchar’s conviction that persons to whom the first alleged victim confided the information did not report the abuse when they learned of it in April 2000.
"The alleged incident prompting today’s (April 20) lawsuit occurred after April 2000. Had the archdiocese been made aware of this information in 2000, action would have been taken immediately to remove Bryan Kuchar from active ministry, and it is likely that today’s alleged incident could have been prevented. Unless people come forward promptly with reports of abuse, we cannot know about it and take action to prevent future abuse.
"We apologize to anyone who has been victimized by clergy or other Church personnel," the statement concluded.
The archdiocese has begun the lengthy process of asking the Vatican to laicize both Wolken and Kuchar.