- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, leader of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, apologized yesterday to the hundreds of people who will get a share of a $660 million settlement over accusations of clergy sex abuse.

“There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims. … I cannot,” he said.

“Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened, and it will not happen again.”

Cardinal Mahony said that he met in the past 14 months with dozens of people charging clergy abuse and that those meetings helped him understand the importance of a quick resolution to the lawsuits.

The settlement will not affect the archdiocese’s core ministries, Cardinal Mahony said, but the church will have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds and borrow money. The archdiocese will not sell any parish property, he said.

The deal between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and more than 500 purported victims of clergy sexual abuse, reached late Saturday, is by far the largest payout since the nationwide clergy abuse scandal emerged in 2002 in Boston. The amount would average a little more than $1.3 million per plaintiff, although individual payouts will vary according to the severity and duration of the abuse.

Cardinal Mahony and all parties are expected before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today to enter the settlement into the court record, attorneys said.

“I think for those of us who have been involved in this for more than five years, it’s a huge relief,” said Michael Hennigan, archdiocese attorney. “But it’s a disappointment too that we didn’t get it done much earlier than this.”

The settlement also calls for the release of priests’ confidential personnel files after review by a judge. Under the deal, the archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years.

Earlier yesterday, Cardinal Mahony celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles without directly addressing the settlement, although the service included a prayer for victims of clergy abuse. Parishioners reacted with disappointment and relief to the settlement.

Chris Parra, who attends Mass every Sunday, said she couldn’t help thinking about the settlement when she shook Cardinal Mahony’s hand upon exiting the cathedral.

“Even when I was standing there, shaking his hand, I was thinking about how he’s finally going to release the priests’ personnel records and I wondered to myself why didn’t he do that sooner,” she said, holding her baby, Tomas.

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