A judge approved a settlement of up to $85 million Tuesday between sexual abuse victims and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, one of the largest deals the church has reached with U.S. parishioners who were molested by clergy.

The settlement covers 361 victims who claim they were abused over a period of 50 years by priests in a diocese that once included 57 counties across a large swath of Kentucky. Judge John Potter said a desire by the Covington Diocese to make reparations to the victims contributed to the settlement.

"Contrary to what might be the case in other dioceses, the court believes that this professed desire is genuine and played a significant role in the diocese's decision," Potter wrote in his 15-page ruling.

The Covington settlement may equal a 2003 Boston Archdiocese payout to 552 people, but it is less than a Diocese of Orange, Calif., agreement in 2004 to pay $100 million to resolve about 90 abuse claims.