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Parishioner reaches deal in suit against archdiocese

MOBILE (AP) — A parishioner who accused a Roman Catholic priest of sexual harassment has reached a confidential settlement of her lawsuit against the church, attorneys said.

Linda Ledet, a Mobile lawyer and artist, accused the Archdiocese of Mobile, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb and the Very Rev. Michael Farmer in 2004 of reneging on their promise to pay for her counseling sessions.

The archdiocese denied the allegations. The case had been set for trial last month, but the parties came to terms during the past few weeks, attorneys said.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, both sides declined to reveal terms of the settlement.

Ledet and her husband and children were parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mobile, where the Rev. Paul Zoghby was an associate pastor from 1995 to 2001. According to her civil complaint, Zoghby in 1997 began making “improper, unwelcome and obscene advances toward” her.

The advances, according to the suit, included trying to embrace Ledet intimately, touching her sexually, making lewd comments, exposing his genitalia and attempting to force her “physically and by command as her priest, to engage in sexual relations with him.”

The complaint claimed that Zoghby, who was not named as a defendant, warned that he would accuse Ledet of initiating the contact if she reported him and threatening “the eternal salvation of her soul if she revealed his misconduct.”

After initially denying the allegations, Zoghby in 2002 admitted misconduct, according to Lipscomb’s account contained in an Alabama Supreme Court decision that ordered the church to turn over records of Zoghby’s counseling sessions to Ledet’s lawyers.

Ledet had agreed not to publicize the matter in exchange for a promise that Zoghby would undergo the intensive therapy and that he would be placed in a position where he could not harm others, according to her account.

In 2003, however, Ledet learned that Zoghby had returned to ministry and had been promoted to pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in Foley. The revelation caused Ledet “emotional trauma,” and she sought treatment at several facilities. But the archdiocese refused to pay the bill, according to her allegations.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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