The Boston Archdiocese says it has reached a tentative settlement that would pay $10 million to dozens of alleged victims of a pedophile priest. It would be far less than an earlier deal that the church backed out of this summer.

Cardinal Bernard Law's attorney said Tuesday that the Roman Catholic archdiocese and alleged sex abuse victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan reached the provisional settlement.

Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the plaintiffs, stressed that the deal was "only tentative."

He would not comment on the amount or other details but said he was approaching negotiations with "a lot of caution."

"Historically, I've found the church does not live up to its word," Garabedian said.

The previous deal, estimated to be worth as much as $30 million, was announced in March, but the archdiocese backed out in May when its finance council rejected it.

The new offer, which has been approved by the finance council, was made in late July before the sides went to court to determine whether the earlier settlement was binding, said Law's attorney J. Owen Todd.

Garabedian has asked Judge Constance Sweeney to enforce the earlier agreement, which called for the archdiocese to make payments to victims ranging from $10,000 to $938,000 each. Sweeney had encouraged the lawyers to settle before she ruled on the first offer.

The agreements involve some 86 plaintiffs -- 70 who were allegedly sexually abused by Geoghan and 16 relatives of victims -- who have sued the archdiocese.

Todd said Garabedian told him Tuesday morning that all but one of the plaintiffs had agreed to the $10 million settlement. All plaintiffs must agree for the deal to be finalized.

Also Tuesday, a former altar boy who said that a high-ranking church official molested him in the 1980s withdrew his lawsuit after questions arose about the validity of his claims.

Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the chief canon lawyer for the Boston Archdiocese, had maintained his innocence since Paul Edwards, 35, first claimed in a lawsuit filed last month that Foster molested him repeatedly when Edwards was a teenager.

"I am grateful to God that the truth has been revealed," Foster said. "These false accusations have done harm, not only to me, but also to the true victims of abuse."

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled, said Ellen Martin, one of Foster's lawyers. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that prosecutors are reviewing the case for evidence of criminal conduct in Edwards' filing of a possibly unfounded claim.