CHICAGO (Reuters) – An Illinois-based Catholic group agreed on Friday to pay $1.75 million to the father of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually abused by one of its priests in Florida after the two met in an Internet chatroom.
The Order of the Carmelites, a religious group known for its charitable work, will pay the money on behalf of Father William Wert, 52, who was accused of sexually assaulting the boy in late 2010 and early 2011, a lawyer for the boy’s family said.
“It was sordid. It was just a parent’s worst nightmare,” Geoffrey Morris, the family’s Venice-based attorney, told Reuters, after announcing the settlement of a civil suit filed by the family.
The Catholic Church has paid out some $3 billion to settle sexual abuse lawsuits, bankrupting some dioceses.
The family’s attorney said the boy met Wert, who lived in a church-owned house in Venice, on an Internet chat website for gay teenagers.
The two met on several occasions, including at a hotel and golf course, according to Wendy Rose, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. The boy spent the night at Wert’s residence on at least three occasions, Morris said.
The child’s father contacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office after finding inappropriate messages from Wert on his son’s phone, Rose said.
Wert was arrested in February and faces criminal charges brought by the State of Florida of sex offense of a victim between the ages of 12 and 15 and lewd or lascivious battery of a victim aged 12 to 16.
His Catholic Order refused to post his $190,000 bail, Morris said. Calls to an attorney for the Illinois-based church were not immediately returned.
(Reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
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