Parish held liable for abuse by priest

DOVER, Del. — A jury has found a Roman Catholic parish in Wilmington liable for a former priest’s sexual abuse of a young boy in the 1960s and has awarded damages of $3 million against the parish and $30 million against the priest.

The jury ruled Wednesday that St. Elizabeth’s parish was negligent in not preventing Francis DeLuca from sexually abusing John Vai.

Wednesday’s verdict encompassed only compensatory damages. A separate hearing to consider punitive damages against the parish and DeLuca begins Monday.

The judge earlier had ruled that DeLuca, who refused to attend the trial, was liable for abusing Vai but left the jury to determine the amount of damages to assess against him.

The 80-year-old DeLuca was defrocked in 2008 after serving 60 days in a New York jail for repeatedly molesting his 18-year-old grandnephew. Vai’s lawsuit is expected to be the first in a series by DeLuca’s alleged victims to go to trial.

After Wednesday’s verdict, Bishop W. Francis Malooly apologized, on behalf of the Diocese of Wilmington, to Deluca and “to anyone who suffered child abuse by priests of this diocese.”

The Wilmington diocese includes nine counties in Maryland.