Catholic Diocese of Savannah to pay record settlement in priest abuse case

Catholic Diocese of Savannah to pay record settlement in priest abuse case
Published: Jul. 5, 2016 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2016 at 6:55 PM EDT
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The Catholic Diocese of Savannah is paying big time for the sins of a former priest once again.

WTOC has learned this settlement, the largest Catholic Church sex abuse settlement in Georgia history and the third largest in the country, was reached last week.

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah is no stranger to lawsuits filed by victims claiming they were victims of sexual abuse by a priest. This latest case was reported more than a year ago and last week a settlement, the largest ever in the state of Georgia, was reached.

“After 14 months of really hard fought litigation where we discovered a lot of interesting things about the exact deception and depth of the problems at the Catholic Church, we successfully got them to confess a judgement in favor of our client for $4.5 million,” said attorney Mark Tate. 

The former priest in question, Wayland Yoder Brown, invoked his Fifth Amendment right when it came to questions about his alleged criminal abuse of a male in the late 1980s.

Six years ago a similar settlement for $4.3 million was reached with the Catholic Diocese of Savannah. Documents showed Brown was the subject of concern as far back as 1969 but was still ordained in the 1970s and employed in Savannah by the diocese from 1979 to 1982 and again in 1987, despite more serious issues.

He was arrested in 2002 for sexual abuse of two minors in Maryland. 

“He's obviously a very bad guy, and the problem was the Catholic Church was complicit in what is called priest shifting, where they would get wind of this and hide the priests, and that is what happened in this case,” said Jim Shipley from Tate Law Firm. 

“You feel bad about taking from the church who was supposed to be doing good, but the fact is the history of the church includes sex abuse,” said Tate. “When it comes time to make people feel whole from what was done, the church has to pay.

Tate said his hope is the Catholic Diocese will use this to close the book and move forward.

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah released this statement from Bishop Gregory Hartmayer Tuesday morning:

SNAP issued the following statement after news of the settlement: 

No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

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