The Diocese of Brooklyn and an after-school program will pay a $27.5 million settlement to four men who were sexually abused as children by a former church worker.
Angelo Serrano entered into an agreement and pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the four young boys between 2003 and 2009 when he was teaching catechism and serving as director of religious education at St. Lucy - St. Patrick Catholic Church in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, court documents said.
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The boys were between the ages of 8 and 12 at the time. The abuse took place inside the church, at an after-school program and at Serrano's apartment, which was located in church's old school house, the documents said.
"Some of these boys were in second grade when the abuse started. The abuse continued for months and years. This should never have happened," said Ben Rubinowitz, one of the attorneys for the men.
The settlement, which was announced Tuesday, is believed to be the largest settlement paid in the United States to individual victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
The men, who chose to remain unnamed and are now ages 19 to 21, will each receive $6.8 million, the attorneys said.
"While nothing can undo the terrible abuse and harm inflicted on these boys this settlement is a way of ensuring they get the help they need not just now but for the rest of their lives," Rubinowitz said.
The Diocese of Brooklyn confirmed on Tuesday that it reached a settlement along with "another defendant."
In a statement, the diocese noted that Serrano was a volunteer worker and not an employee of the diocese or the parish.
"We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for these claimants," the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement. "The Diocese remains committed to ensuring that its parishes, schools and youth programs remain safe and secure for the young people who are entrusted to our care."
Serrano was arrested in 2009 and pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual conduct. He is serving a 15-year prison sentence, with the earliest possible date of release in July 2022, according to prison records.
The settlement comes less than two weeks after the New York attorney general issued civil subpoenas for all eight Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other parts of the church reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of the sexual abuse of minors.
The archdiocese and the other seven dioceses were "ready and eager" to cooperate, said a spokesman.
The attorney general's decision followed the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse by more than 300 "predator priests" accused of abusing more than 1,000 child victims. That report reignited a firestorm in the global church and has prompted inquiries in other states by church and secular officials.