Philadelphia Archdiocese Settles for $3.5 Million in Sex Abuse Lawsuit for Deceased Priest

The statement urged Archbishop Nelson Perez to use his resources to locate and assist others who may have been abused by Msgr. Close.

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pa.
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pa. (photo: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain )

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with a man who accused a now-deceased priest of raping him about 17 years ago and alleged that the archdiocese failed to take action when previously informed of separately alleged abuse.

The lawsuit alleged that Monsignor John Close, who was ordained in 1969, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy in 2006 when he took classes at St. Katherine of Siena Parish in Wayne, which is within the archdiocese. The lawyers claimed that Msgr. Close sexually abused the teenager after hearing his confession and warned him not to report the abuse.

Although the man, who is now 30 years old, first opened up about the alleged abuse in 2018, his lawyers argued that the archdiocese failed to take proper action in response to previous allegations, which could have prevented his assault. In the 1990s, a different man accused the priest of sexual abuse allegedly occurring in 1969, but the archdiocese could not substantiate the claims. 

In 2011, Msgr. Close was placed on administrative leave while the archdiocese investigated a second allegation against him, which alleged he abused another boy in the early 1990s. The archdiocese could not substantiate the allegations and Msgr. Close ultimately returned to ministry before retiring in 2012.

Kenneth A. Gavin, the chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said in a statement that the archdiocese was not told about this abuse allegation until reached by the plaintiff’s lawyers in July 2019, at which point the archdiocese immediately reported the allegation to law enforcement. 

“Monsignor Close died on March 6, 2018,” Gavin said. “Prior to his death, the archdiocese had no knowledge of this allegation.” 

Gavin added: “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia acknowledges settlement in this matter and the resolution it brings.”

The archdiocese will not use any funds from the Catholic Charities Appeal, the Seminary Appeal, or other donor-designated funds in relation to this lawsuit or this settlement, according to the archdiocesan statement.

A statement from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests commended the alleged victim for “his bravery in disclosing his suffering, seeking justice in court, and enduring a lengthy litigation process.” The name of the alleged victim has not been publicly disclosed. 

“The size of this settlement reflects the overwhelming evidence that Catholic officials possess, revealing their repeated and callous disregard for the safety of children,” the statement read. “Fearing the exposure of incriminating information in court or in the public domain, they have resorted to compensating victims and their insurers have followed suit.”

The statement urged Archbishop Nelson Perez to use his resources to locate and assist others who may have been abused by Msgr. Close. The organization asked him to use parish bulletins, church websites, pulpit announcements, and news conferences to encourage anyone with information to come forward. 

“Given the extensive career of a known predator like Close, it is difficult to fathom that he had only a few victims; we believe there may be hundreds,” the statement read.

The archdiocese’s statement reiterated its “zero-tolerance policy” related to sexual abuse of minors. After the 2011 Grand Jury Report that unveiled allegations of sexual abuse and alleged cover-ups by bishops, the archdiocese reviewed and comprehensively reformed its policies and procedures related to matters of child sexual abuse.

“With [this] announcement, the archdiocese reaffirms its longstanding commitment to preventing child abuse, protecting the young people entrusted to its care, and providing holistic means of compassionate support for those who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of our clergy,” Gavin said. “We deeply regret the pain suffered by any survivor of child sexual abuse and have a sincere desire to help victims on their path to healing.”