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Los Angeles diocese agrees to settlement in clergy abuse scandal


The archdiocese of Los Angeles’ agreement to a US$660 million clergy abuse settlement will amount to $1.3 million for each plaintiff, and it prevents Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the archbishop of the diocese, from having to testify on the issue.  News reports said Mahoney would not have to disclose whether diocesan leaders might have covered up the incidents of abuse as they occurred.

However, the settlement, which includes more than 500 plaintiffs, and effectively avoids 15 upcoming paedophilia trials against the LA archdiocese, also calls for the release of confidential personnel files of priests involved in alleged abuses from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Archdiocesan attorney Michael Hennigan told The Washington Post newspaper he was glad an agreement had finally been reached.

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

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told British public broadcaster, the BBC, "This represents a tremendous achievement by these brave survivors, who somehow found the strength to come forward, report the crimes, get legal help, expose the predators and ultimately endure a pretty long, gruelling legal process."

The settlement takes the total paid out by US dioceses to $2 billion since 1950. Los Angeles, the most populous Catholic diocese in the United States, with more than three million parishioners, will have paid out about one quarter of that and now faces financial ruin.

According to church documents, the diocese will pay $250 million in cash, while the rest will be covered by insurance and by several different religious orders.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders already have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 earlier claims.

Several months ago Cardinal Mahoney announced that the church would sell its 12-story administrative building, and consider selling 50 other non-essential properties to raise funds.

More than 500 other lawsuits against the archdiocese remain unresolved. Since 2002 nearly 1,000 people have filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in California alone.

(c) Ecumenical News International