In a ruling that likely will have far-reaching implications for about 150 priest sex abuse cases pending or tied up in bankruptcy court, a Dover, Del., jury found that St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic parish was grossly negligent in its failure to properly supervise then-priest Francis DeLuca and is responsible for at least $3 million of $30 million in damages awarded to John M. Vai, who repeatedly was molested as a teenager in the 1960s, reports the Wilmingon News-Journal. The parish also may end up owing Vai more after the Kent County Superior Court jury rules on potential punitive damages.
On the stand, Vai, 58, told a jury that his case was not about the money but about getting the truth out and getting compensation for the loss of his childhood. Vai said Wednesday he was pleased with the outcome and that the jury believed his account. “Personally, I feel some of the weight is relieved,” he said. Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly issued a brief statement in which he again apologized on behalf of the diocese to Vai and all other victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. He also said he was “disappointed that the jury found the people of St. Elizabeth liable for the acts of Francis DeLuca” and said it is “unfortunate” that they will have to pay for DeLuca’s “criminal and sinful acts” from more than 40 years ago.