$1.5 million settlement announced in sexual abuse lawsuit alleging church knew about music minister’s past

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by Jay Pate

The Diocese of Charlotte has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the Catholic Church’s pattern of hiring and protecting sexual predators allowed a former parish music minister to repeatedly molest a young girl. The case began in 2009 when Asheville, North Carolina police charged Paul Lawrence Berrell, a former music minister at St. Eugene Catholic Church, with taking indecent liberties with a 13 year-old child. Berrell was ultimately sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

The child’s parents sued Berrell and the Diocese of Charlotte. The lawsuit alleged that church officials knew about Berrell’s history of assaulting children at parishes in Georgia, Massachusetts and Tennessee before he was assigned to St. Eugene. In response, the diocese denied that Berrell had a history of improper sexual activity that was known to church officials.

Under the terms of the settlement, the child will be awarded $1.2 million and the parents will receive $340,000. Some of the money from the settlement will be used to purchase of an annuity for the child’s benefit.

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