Of the thousands of people who have fought the church over sexual abuse charges, Mr. Scamardo is the only one known to have fought from both sides.
While representing the church as a trusted insider, Mr. Scamardo said, he was secretly struggling to cope with his own sexual abuse as a teenager by a priest and a lay youth minister. The conflict between his inner and outer selves brought anguish, thoughts of suicide and finally a confrontation with the diocese. When he sought compensation from the church as an abuse victim this year, he came up against a bishop and lawyers aggressively guarding church assets.
In an interview in Houston, Mr. Scamardo provided a window into how church lawyers worked to deter lawsuits, minimize the church’s payouts, limit coverage for therapy and keep any settlements secret.
It was always the church, he said, that insisted on inserting confidentiality clauses in the settlements — never the victims, as many bishops have contended. He said that while the eruption of the scandal last year had made bishops more likely to express compassion toward victims, the church’s lawyers were still playing hardball behind the scenes.
And he said he was certain there were many more abusive priests and victims than have become public.
Mr. Scamardo said he left his post when the dissonance between his past and his present became so unbearable he began to think of suicide. Three weeks ago, after months of wrangling, he signed a financial settlement with the Diocese of Austin, where he said the abuse occurred.
“If they’re playing the game with me like that this year, then nothing has changed,” Mr. Scamardo said.
Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin declined to give an interview, but said in a statement: “I deeply regret any pain Mr. Scamardo may have suffered and pray that he will know God’s healing. While we cannot change the past, the diocese has established extensive programs to prevent sexual abuse in our parishes and schools in the future.”