Lawyers urge victims to settle with diocese

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By Mark Hallum

The Brooklyn Queens Diocese and a group of attorneys are sparring over a report that establishes a list of more than 60 alleged and convicted sexual abusers within the clergy.

The diocese claims the Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse is not only labeling innocent priests as offenders, but is also using victims to turn a profit when legal assistance is not necessary to benefit from the settlement.

Pennsylvania attorney Jerry Kristal, who is leading the effort to get word out to victims, said it is a classic move for the Catholic Church to attack the lawyers.

“This is a very small window that the Brooklyn Diocese has opened for survivors to come forward and report abuse to the Diocese for the first time, and it will be closed shortly with little notice,” Kristal said. “For far too long, there has been little known about priests accused of abuse and this silence has had devastating consequences.”

Set up by the diocese in June, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program allows victims with credible claims of sex abuse to claim funds since many of the allegations now exceed the state’s statute of limitations which requires that charges must be filed by child victims of sexual assault who are under 23.

The cutoff is Feb. 28 .

The report by the legal group, “Hidden Disgrace,” lists 65 priests from more than 135 churches throughout the diocese, including eight who have never before been accused. News reports and other databases helped the survivors organization complete this list, which has over 45 clergy members from Queens.

Carolyn Erstad, a spokeswoman for the diocese, claimed the settlement program is independently run and no legal assistance is necessary on the part of victims

“The Diocese of Brooklyn is all about encouraging survivors to come forward and apply for financial compensation through the [IRCP],” Erstad said. “Instead that information is withheld and the lawyers only offer their services as a means to apply for compensation. Survivors should be aware that while they may wish to hire an attorney, they do not need one to apply to the [IRCP], and that pro bono attorneys are provided by the program’s independent administrators to advise on the signing of the release.”

One such priest who was listed in the report compiled by lawyers, Father Adam Prochaski, was also one of the worst alleged offenders on the list.

Prochaski was with Holy Cross parish school at 61-21 56th Rd. in Maspeth between 1973 and 1994. Linda Porcaro, a teacher who was close to the matter and the whistleblower in the case, claims the priest had assaulted numerous girls between the ages of 5 and 16 and was known to use physical intimidation on the boys in the school.

Porcaro said several students came to her about the abuse they endured and she took this information to the principal in 1990, but action against Prochaski was slow.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who was depicted in the film “Spotlight, firmly believed there was a cover-up regarding Prochaski’s case.

Prochaski no longer serves as a priest and Garabedian believes the man is alive and in the New York City metro area.

Kristal and Garabedian both spoke of the importance changing the state law regarding the statute of limitations.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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