- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese said yesterday it will pay $60 million to settle 45 sex abuse lawsuits, the largest payout yet by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and among the biggest resulting from the molestation crisis that has plagued the church.

“It’s a day of healing and reconciliation as we move forward with these 45 cases,” Cardinal Roger Mahony said. “This is very special for these victims in their moment of healing.”

The claims settled yesterday involve 22 priests and include accusations from two periods when the archdiocese had limited or no insurance against sexual abuse claims — prior to the mid-1950s and after 1987.

Cardinal Mahony said $40 million of the payment would come from the archdiocese, while $20 million would be from religious orders plus a small amount of independent insurance coverage.

Negotiations on the deal had been in progress for at least a year but were held up because attorneys for the plaintiffs wanted the church to release the accused priests’ private files.

The agreement calls for an independent judge to review those files and decide which documents can be released to the victims. That process is expected to take several months.

Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement was the largest the Los Angeles Archdiocese had reached “by far.” Mr. Boucher said at least two plaintiffs had died while awaiting the resolution.

“I wasn’t certain we would ever get it done, but thankfully 45 very injured people will have a chance to begin to heal, particularly at this time of the year,” he said. “The big concern is the 700 or 800 victims who are out there who still have claims pending.”

Mr. Boucher said that not all of the plaintiffs’ attorneys had signed off on the finalized documents, but that process was expected to be completed by Monday.

David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he was happy for the victims who were part of the settlement but remained angry at Cardinal Mahony and other church leaders.

“We recognize it for what it is, which is a purely business move designed to keep Mahony out of depositions and off the witness stand. That’s what every bishop fears the most and that’s why they settled,” Mr. Clohessy said.

Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the U.S. church at least $1.5 billion since 1950.

Catholic clergy abuse cases

Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the U.S. church more than $1.5 billion since 1950. The following is a list of some of the largest known payouts to victims.

• Diocese of Orange, Calif., 2004, $100 million for 90 abuse claims

• Diocese of Covington, Ky., 2006, up to $85 million for roughly 350 people

• Archdiocese of Boston, 2003, $85 million for 552 claims

• Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2006, $60 million for 45 lawsuits

• Diocese of Oakland, Calif., 2005, $56 million to 56 persons

• Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., 2003, $25.7 million to 243 victims

• Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., 2005, agrees to fund a settlement trust worth about $22 million for more than 50 victims as part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

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