A Queens man who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre decades ago said Tuesday he was awarded $500,000 through a compensation fund set up by the diocese.
Thomas McGarvey, 52, said he received notification of the payment last month from the administrators of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. The settlement, announced at a news conference Wednesday, is the first to be publicly disclosed.
The program, established in October, provides victims with financial compensation if they agree not to take legal action against the diocese. It was modeled after programs launched in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn.
McGarvey said the settlement was bittersweet for him. “Whatever settlement they gave me is not going to wipe out the pain that I went through,” he said.
But he added that he hopes it will at least give him some closure to the events that have haunted him for decades, and help him move on with his life.
McGarvey alleges he was sexually abused for several years by the Rev. Robert L. Brown starting at St. Catherine of Sienna parish in Franklin Square in the 1980s.
Sean Dolan, a diocese spokesman, told the New York Times in October that said it received an allegation from McGarvey in 2014, which was immediately forwarded to the Nassau County District Attorney. Brown died in the mid-1990s.
Robert Hoatson, an advocate for clergy sex abuse victims who has helped McGarvey, said he was “satisfied” with the compensation, though “it’s really not about the money. It’s about justice. It’s about acknowledgment.”
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based lawyer representing McGarvey, said he believes $500,000 is the highest settlement granted by any of the three compensation programs in New York. Michael Dowd, a Manhattan-based attorney who has represented scores of alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse in New York, said the figures have ranged from $100,000 to $500,000.
Dowd said damages likely would be larger after trialbut few cases have gone to court because of New York’s statute of limitations, he said.
Asked about the settlement, Dolan released a statement that said in part: “We recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse.”
However, he added,“We are deeply inspired by the courage of survivors of child sexual abuse who have already come forward through the IRCP, who have shared their very painful stories and entered into a process that we believe is both fair and prompt.”
McGarvey is among 137 people who have filed claims as part of the program’s Phase One covering those who had previously filed complaints of clergy sex abuse, said Camille Biros, a program administrator. A total of 181 were eligible for that phase.
Phase Two, which started Feb. 1, involves alleged victims who have not previously filed complaints.
Administrators have reviewed 59 cases in Phase One, and 47 of the victims have accepted settlements — with administrators waiting for a decision by the others, Biros said.
She said she could not comment on any individual case or award.
Garabedian, who was portrayed in the film “Spotlight,” which focused on the church sex abuse scandal in Boston, said it was up to each victim to decide whether to participate in the program.
“There isn’t one victim I’ve ever represented, including Mr. McGarvey, who wouldn’t give all the money back in the world to not have been sexually abused,” Garabedian said. “Money is only a symbol of validation. It does not provide closure to the victim.”