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Archdiocese settles in first civil suits filed by survivors of child sexual abuse by priests

One survivor said he hopes others will come forward, and that disclosing helped calm “dark anger that was suffocating my soul.”

One of the survivors was an altar boy at Incarnation of Our Lord, on 5th Street near Lindley Avenue in Olney. (FILE PHOTO)
One of the survivors was an altar boy at Incarnation of Our Lord, on 5th Street near Lindley Avenue in Olney. (FILE PHOTO)Read more

IN WHAT THEIR attorney called a "significant step" in the healing process of two survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has settled the first civil suits filed in 2011 after a damning grand-jury report on sex abuse by area priests.

The settlements with survivors - identified in court documents as John Doe 10 and John Doe 187 - were made earlier this year, the second coming in February the day before jury selection was to begin for the trials in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, said attorney Dan Monahan, who represented both men. Monahan and attorney Jeff Anderson announced the settlements yesterday.

Monahan said the settlements mark a significant development for both men, now in their 30s, as both came forward after the statute of limitations in their cases had passed, meaning their abusers could not be criminally charged.

"For these individuals to come forward, it gave them a certain amount of power that had been taken away from them as children," said Monahan. "Both are at better places in their lives because of this process."

Doe 187, in a statement provided by his lawyers yesterday, said he is hopeful that his story will prompt other survivors of sexual abuse to come forward.

"I was deep in depression and struggled with daily thoughts of suicide for years. Disclosing [the abuse] to my lawyers helped me deal with the dark anger that was suffocating my soul," the man said. "My hope is that other survivors like myself, people who've been abused by authority figures, other priests, or by Father [William] Ayres can know that there is hope, there is healing, that we do get better by sharing the secret and taking action."

Ayres is accused of sexually abusing Doe 187 for three years in the '90s while the victim was an altar boy at Incarnation of Our Lord, on 5th Street near Lindley Avenue in Olney. Monahan said that although suspicion of Ayres' behavior was reported to a pastor in 2001, Ayres was not removed from the ministry until Doe 187 came forward in 2010.

In Doe 10's case, he was a third-grader in the early 1990s when Martin Satchell, who was ousted from the priesthood in 2004 amid allegations of child sex abuse, allegedly molested him. Satchell continued celebrating Mass and also taught at Episcopal Academy and the Haverford School before he was defrocked, Monahan said.

Ayres, attorneys said, is believed to be living in Mixco, Guatemala, and may have access to children there. Satchell's most recent address is listed in North Philadelphia, but calls to phone numbers listed for him went unreturned yesterday.

In a statement yesterday, the Archdiocese said that no parish or charitable funds were used to pay the settlements, the amounts of which were undisclosed.

"For some time now, the Archdiocese has provided assistance to both men on their paths toward healing, including financial support in the form of payment for ongoing psychological treatment," the statement read. "In order to help all parties move forward, the Archdiocese has agreed to these settlements."

The settlement announcement comes on the heels of a state Supreme Court decision earlier this week reinstating the child-endangerment conviction of Monsignor William Lynn for failing to protect children from known pedophile priests in his role as secretary of the clergy.

Doe 187 encouraged other survivors to reach out to his attorneys, saying he "would be happy to discuss this journey" with them.

"It is still a painful struggle," the man said in his statement. "But I am now looking ahead instead of back. I now have hope for a better future."