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Sobs Follow Church Abuse Settlement

Jan 4, 2005 | AP

Details of a record $100 million settlement between alleged victims of priest sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange were unsealed, with church leaders saying it would make the diocese a "holier, humbler and healthier church."

Alleged victims sobbed and hugged Monday as they spoke publicly about the deal that was nearly two years in the making. Some thanked Bishop Tod D. Brown, who as head of the diocese negotiated what has become the largest clergy abuse settlement in history.

"Let this be what everyone remembers from today: that nothing is more important than the protection of our children and our youth," Brown said as he sat alongside plaintiffs and their attorneys. "I seek their forgiveness. I hope for reconciliation, and I know that they have now begun their healing process."

The settlement was reached December 2, but was under a court seal for a month as the parties signed off on it. It surpasses the $85 million the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay 552 plaintiffs in 2002.

The settlement resolves 90 lawsuits against the diocese that included allegations against 31 priests, 10 lay personnel, one religious brother and two nuns.

"Today, we can stand and we can say, I forgive you. And of course I do. Of course we forgive you," said Mark Curran, one of those whose lawsuits against the diocese led to the settlement.

The earliest allegation dated to 1936; the latest came in 1996. Payouts were based on the length and severity of abuse and other factors, but how much each plaintiff is getting remains confidential.

Half of the payout will come from the diocese and the other half will be paid by its eight insurance carriers. The agreement also calls for the release of nearly all confidential documents from diocesan personnel files of the accused after a judge's review; attorneys estimated the first records could be released within two months.

Some 800 clergy abuse lawsuits are still pending statewide and plaintiffs used the settlement announcement to call on other bishops -- particularly Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony -- to follow Brown's example.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles faces more than 500 lawsuits that are still locked in settlement negotiations. Trial dates for a handful of those cases are expected to be set Friday.


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