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Source: Deal In N.H. Church Abuse Case

Dec 10, 2002 | AP

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester will acknowledge some responsibility for decades of sexual abuse by priests in a settlement with the state, The Associated Press learned Tuesday.

The agreement will allow the diocese to avoid criminal prosecution on charges that it failed to protect children from abusive priests, a source familiar with the investigation said. In exchange, the church will publicly release thousands of pages of personnel records on the priests.

The state attorney general's office has been investigating the church since February and has been in settlement talks with the diocese since at least last month.

Attorney General Philip McLaughlin and Bishop John McCormack planned to announce the agreement Tuesday. Neither McLaughlin nor Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, would comment.

Prosecutors had requested a special meeting Friday of a grand jury to consider indicting the diocese, which covers the whole state. Prosecutors had said they would not seek an indictment if the diocese settled.

The church personnel records already are in state investigators' hands, due to a court order. The state's case against the diocese is based in part on the documents, as well as the testimony of various priests and alleged victims of sexual abuse.

The wide-ranging investigation involved nearly 50 priests and more than 100 alleged victims, going back to the 1960s, prosecutors have said.

Any criminal indictments likely would have been misdemeanors brought under the state's child endangerment law. For an institution, a conviction could mean fines of up to $20,000 per offense.

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