“Eight people have filed claims against a former Long Island priest they accuse of sexually molesting them decades ago.
The accused is Father Peter Charland – a priest and a pastor at St. Phillips and James Church in St. James in the early 1970s.
One of his accusers, Steven Werner, was a young boy back then and a member of the parish’s popular “PJ Folk Singers” group. Werner says he is one of eight members of that group who now say they were sexually abused by Charland.
“I certainly thought I was unique. I certainly thought it was wrong, but I didn’t, for whatever reason, think it was appropriate to stand up. That’s something I regret,” says Werner.
Starting at age 11, Werner says Charland molested him in the church rectory, in his car and on a choir trip to Romania.
“2013 was the first time I ever told anybody, but I will hide no more from that secret,” says Werner.
Werner’s attorney Michale Reck announced Thursday that the group of eight filed claims with the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Plan. The plan provides victims with financial compensation if they agree not to take legal action against the diocese in the future.
Reck says he’s been told by families that they complained to the diocese about Charland’s sexual abuse back in the mid-70s. By 1976, Reck says Charland’s name had disappeared from public church records and he went on to become a psychotherapist working with children.
Charland died in 2004.
“There’s no information publicly available that the Diocese of Rockville Centre ever alerted law enforcement or warned the public and the communities of the danger he posed,” said Reck.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre released a statement that said in part, “We recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse.” “