A man who was sexually abused as a child by a Catholic priest in Pennsylvania received $ 2 million in a settlement with the Erie diocese that the priest was a member of, the victim’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
The priest, David L. Poulson, pleaded guilty in October to two felony charges for sexually assaulting one boy and trying to assault another. In January, he was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
According to the office of Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Mr. Poulson assaulted one of his victims 20 times in church rectories between 2002 and 2010 and had the victim talk about the abuse in confession with him.
Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer for that victim, who received the settlement, said his client preferred not to be named.
The Diocese of Erie said in a statement on Tuesday that it “stands behind the settlement in the interests of justice and recognizes the harms suffered by this victim.”
This is the first settlement to follow a criminal case after a grand jury issued a searing report in August. It found that bishops and other church leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it.
The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, was the broadest examination by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
But since it was issued, the attorney general’s office has criminally charged only two of the Pennsylvania priests who were named as offenders — Mr. Poulson and John T. Sweeney, of the Diocese of Greensburg. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison.
Of the other priests listed, those who are still alive have been protected from criminal charges because the statute of limitations has expired.
State law allows victims of abuse as children to bring civil suits until they turn 30. Criminal complaints must be filed by the time the victim is 50. Those rules leave the majority of abuse survivors, who came forward later in life, with no legal recourse.
Mr. Garabedian noted that in 2002 — the same year that The Boston Globe published an investigation into widespread abuse in the Catholic Church — the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted its “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” to outline norms for the safety of minors.
“Yet my client was abused from 2002 to 2010, so obviously the norms were not effective, if they were put in place at all,” he said. “History has taught us that the Catholic Church cannot be effectively self-policed.”
Mr. Garabedian also said that leaders of the Erie diocese did not do enough to protect children even though Mr. Poulson was known to be potentially dangerous.
In its statement, the diocese said that its leaders had no knowledge of this case until last year and pointed to past statements issued by the diocese and its bishop, Lawrence T. Persico.
“Indeed, as publicly documented, both the district attorney and the attorney general involved in this case recognized the diocese’s full cooperation, noting that this victim’s report was handled properly,” it said.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have debated whether to allow more victims of criminal abuse to come forward by changing or abolishing the statute of limitations, or by opening up a temporary window so past victims would have a chance to press criminal charges.
The attorney general’s office supports these measures, but changing the law would depend on the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
Lawmakers who support a bill to open up a window have been struggling to pass it in the face of staunch opposition from opponents. They include the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which has argued that “this proposal would, in effect, force the people who make up an organization like the Catholic Church today defend themselves against a crime that was committed in their parish, school or charitable program years ago.”