The Archdiocese of St. Louis will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who previously spent 12 years in prison for abusing another boy, an attorney for the victim said Friday.
The plaintiff was an altar boy at Ascension Catholic Church in Chesterfield, Missouri. The suit alleged he was abused by the Rev. Gary Wolken starting in 1993, when the boy was in fourth grade, and continuing through 1995. The lawsuit said the plaintiff repressed memories until he was an adult. The man’s lawsuit, which did not use his name, was filed in 2018.
His attorney, Rebecca Randles, said the settlement was reached this week.
“We applaud our client who has been very brave in facing down the Archdiocese of St. Louis in a case that was very hard-fought and difficult from an emotional and legal standpoint,” Randles said.
The archdiocese didn’t immediately respond to messages Friday but said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it hopes the settlement provides some comfort for the victim and his family.
“We continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse, that they may find comfort and healing. Please keep all those who are exploited in your prayers, especially children and vulnerable adults,” the statement read.
Wolken is now 57. He was sentenced to prison in 2003 for sexually abusing another St. Louis-area boy from 1997 to 2000. He was in prison from 2003 to 2015. The archdiocese removed Wolken from ministry in 2002.
In 2004, the archdiocese paid nearly $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that church leaders could have intervened to prevent the abuse but didn’t.
“Long ago, church staff knew Fr. Gary Wolken was a predator but did almost nothing to stop him and protect kids,” David Clohessy of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement.