The Salesian Society agreed Wednesday to pay $19.5 million to 17 childhood molestation victims, ending the last unresolved case involving the Los Angeles Archdiocese's sexual abuse crisis.
The settlement came after jurors were seated to hear allegations that the Salesians knew Father Titian Miani, now 81, had been accused of preying on youths when they assigned him to St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, where he allegedly molested four children.
Attorney Raymond Boucher, who represented the victims, said he believes that the court process appeared to give the Salesians insight into childhood abuse that resonated through the organization.
"The Salesians understood from the jury selection and by looking at the panel that their pattern and practices were not going to go over well with the jurors and they would be at substantial risk of damages so high that they potentially could put them out of business," Boucher said.
The Salesian Society declined last summer to be part of a $660-million settlement between more than 500 abuse victims and the Los Angeles Archdiocese, its insurers and other religious orders.
In a statement after the settlement, the order was contrite about the actions of Miani, known as Father Jim.
"We understand the deep hurt that these incidents of abuse have caused to young people -- who are the most vulnerable members of our society -- and their families," said Father John Itzaina, vice provincial of the Salesian Society. "We recognize the pain that has been caused by this reprehensible behavior of some, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure this never happens again."
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said no other order has been so resistant to accepting responsibility for its members' abuse, shuffling predator priests and playing legal hardball with victims.
"They paid money at the point of a gun," said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director. "A trial would not have only exposed child sexual abuse, as terrible as that is, but also revealed the Salesian hierarchy's complicity and recalcitrance."
Miani was accused as a seminarian in the 1940s of molesting a 13-year-old boy at an Italian church retreat and of sexually abusing at least three youngsters at a Salesian boarding school in Edmonton, Canada, according to court papers.
After his transfer to St. John Bosco in Bellflower, he befriended a family whose father had recently died. While the mother was busy at work and night school, Miani would show up at the family home and molest the 15-year-old son and two daughters, the court documents said.
Miani left the order in 1974 but continued to serve as a priest until his retirement from clerical duties in 1993. His last known residence was Stockton, according to court papers.