The Archdiocese of Boston agreed to a financial settlement with dozens of people who claimed they were molested by now-defrocked priest John J. Geoghan when they were children, the plaintiffs' lawyer said Tuesday. He said the settlement could cost the church as much as $30 million.

"This agreement sends a message," attorney Mitchell Garabedian said at a news conference with several of the men who claim Geoghan abused them when they were boys. "The church knows it did something wrong."

An arbitrator will determine the sum to be paid to some of the 86 plaintiffs, based on harm they suffered, Garabedian said.

Twenty of the plaintiffs who suffered from improper exposure, and the 16 plaintiffs who are family members of victims will receive a predetermined amount of money, Garabedian said. He would not say how much.

The lead attorney for the archdiocese and a spokeswoman for the archdiocese did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

Ralph DelVecchio, 45, who claimed Geoghan molested him when he was 10, said he was relieved it was over.

"I'm feeling like some weight has come off my shoulders," he said. "This has been a long, drawn-out thing for everybody, (including) my family."

Garabedian said the money will not end the turmoil in the lives of the victims.

"They are not going to be buying yachts and floating around the Bahamas," he said. "They're just going on with their lives. ... There's tremendous pain here."

The Boston archdiocese already had paid an estimated $15 million to 40 alleged Geoghan victims since the mid-1990s and still faces dozens more claims and hundreds of new allegations against Geoghan and other priests.

Geoghan, who was accused by 130 people of molesting them during his decades as a priest, is serving a 9- to 10-year prison sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy and faces another criminal trial. Two child rape charges against him were dropped last week after a judge ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

The lawsuits against Geoghan have been the catalyst for a growing sexual abuse scandal facing the church.

In January, The Boston Globe obtained thousands of documents in the cases, some of which showed the archdiocese had ignored warnings about Geoghan despite allegations stretching back three decades and across six parishes.

The revelations led Law to publicly apologize to Geoghan's victims. He also announced a "zero tolerance" policy, has given prosecutors the names of 80 priests accused of abuse over five decades and has suspended 10 active priests.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said a debt is owed to the victims of Geoghan who spoke out.

"Because of their courage, many children are now safe from a dangerous pedophile," Clohessy said. "More significantly, because of their courage, the consistent pattern of lies and cover ups by several bishops has been exposed."