When a 47-year-old man decided to sue a former DeKalb County priest in 2017, he dreamed of facing his alleged abuser in court. But it turned out Father Stanley Idziak, who’d been accused of molesting multiple children in Dunwoody and Stone Mountain, had died months earlier, leaving the only legal recourse suing his estate.
On Tuesday, the plaintiff withdrew the complaint after receiving a settlement from the priest’s family, attorney John Burdges said.
“It just meant a lot to him that he had that opportunity to fight back,” Burdges said of his client, whose name is sealed in court filings. “His statement to me was, ‘John, it’s finally over.’”
Burdges declined to say how much money was involved in the settlement, other than that it was all the family could give from the estate after administrative costs. Idziak’s estate was worth $62,000, according to a copy of his will obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Burdges said it seemed the priest’s family felt for the victim. Their attorney, Stephen H. DeBaun, declined to comment Wednesday.
The suit was made possible by the 2015 Georgia Hidden Predator Act. It opened a two-year window for lawsuits against accused child abusers whose cases otherwise would’ve been past the statute of limitations.
Idziak served as a priest at All Saints in Dunwoody and Corpus Christi in Stone Mountain in the 1980s, as well as St. Michael’s in Gainesville.
Multiple families came forward in the years that followed saying he had molested their sons in DeKalb. Burdges’ client said the abuse he endured was at Corpus Christi from age 12 to 15.
Court records have shown the Archdiocese of Atlanta settled a 1991 lawsuit with one Stone Mountain family for more than $500,000. The archdiocese also agreed to pay therapy costs for Idziak’s alleged victims, though it never acknowledged his guilt.
Idziak, who never publicly addressed the accusations, went to treatment in Washington, D.C., in 1988, then to Albuquerque, New Mexico. He lived in the Albuquerque Villa, a center founded in the 1940s to help troubled priests.
Atlanta Archbishop James P. Lyke made it clear he would “never, ever” be recommended for ministry again and urged him to give up the priesthood, a church spokesman said in 1993. Idziak turned in his collar the same year.
Idziak moved into an apartment complex where no one knew him or his past.
In late 2016, at 82, he could hardly walk, see or hear, and he lost weight quickly. He told a friend and neighbor, who had no idea he used to be a priest, that he wasn’t afraid to die.
On Jan. 3, 2017, nearly a year to the day from the settlement, apartment staff and the neighbor found him dead.
Idziak had posted “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” signs on the walls.
Burdges said his client, who’s dealt for years with depression and substance issues, had hoped to stand up to Idziak in life, but just filing the suit against the estate felt something like that.
Getting the settlement is something like closure.
“I think he’s doing better,” Burdges said, “I do.”
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