HARTFORD, Conn. – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford agreed Monday to pay $22 million to 43 people who said they were molested by priests (search).
The alleged abuse dates back as far as the 1960s and involved 14 priests or retired priests.
Parents tried to bring it to the attention of Archbishop John Francis Whealon (search) in 1983 but were threatened with legal action by the archdiocese, said attorney Jason Tremont, a lawyer for the 43 people.
"By giving victims a voice, we can change the behavior of the church and finally force the archdiocese to acknowledge responsibility for the past," Tremont said.
A spokesman for the archdiocese, the Rev. John Gatzak, said the settlement will be paid for with long-term savings and insurance policies.
"The archbishop wants to begin the healing process for those whose lives have been seriously harmed by sexual abuse, and for the church itself," Gatzak said. "We must acknowledge and deal with what has been done with justice and compassion."
Kevin Zile, 52, said the settlement can prevent others from being abused, but will not stop his flashbacks. "There were times when I was driven to New York City and woke up in the back of the car, tied and being abused by men I didn't know," he said.
The archdiocese said six of the priests are dead and four are retired. Three others are no longer active in ministry. One remains active, and a sexual abuse review panel determined allegations against him were not credible, the diocese said.
Larger settlements have been reached elsewhere. In 2004, the Diocese of Orange County, Calif., agreed to pay $100 million to 87 victims. In 2003, the Boston Archdiocese settled with 552 victims for $85 million. A judge in Kentucky has granted preliminary approval for what would be the nation's largest settlement at $120 million.