LOS ANGELES – A judge Monday unsealed the details of a record $100 million settlement with a Southern California diocese over sex abuse allegations against clergy. Alleged victims sobbed as they spoke publicly about a deal that was nearly two years in the making.
The settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange marks the single largest clergy abuse settlement to date. The Archdiocese of Boston (search) agreed to pay $85 million to 552 plaintiffs in 2002.
"Let this be what everyone remembers from today: that nothing is more important than the protection of our children and our youth," Bishop Tod D. Brown (search) said a news conference following a brief court hearing, sitting alongside the plaintiffs and their lawyers. "I seek their forgiveness, I hope for reconciliation and I know that they have now begun their healing process."
Some of the plaintiffs cried while others hugged Brown.
"Today I sit with you next to my brother in Christ, who has practiced his faith — not just with the money, but I see the compassion of Christ in this man," said plaintiff Mark Curran as he choked back tears. "Today, we can stand and we can say, 'I forgive you.' And of course I do. Of course we forgive you."
The settlement came Dec. 2 after nearly two years of negotiations; it was placed under a court seal while the parties signed off.
Payouts were based on the length and severity of abuse and other factors, but how much each plaintiff is getting remains confidential.
Half of the payout will come from the diocese and the other half will be paid by its eight insurance carriers. The agreement also calls for the release of nearly all confidential documents from diocesan personnel files of the accused after a judge's review; attorneys estimated the first records could be released within two months.
The settlement resolves 90 lawsuits against the diocese that included allegations against 31 priests, 10 lay personnel, one religious brother and two nuns. The earliest allegation dated to 1936; the latest came in 1996.
Some 800 clergy abuse lawsuits are still pending statewide and plaintiffs used the settlement announcement to call on other bishops — particularly Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony — to follow Brown's example.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles (search) faces more than 500 lawsuits that are still locked in settlement negotiations. Trial dates for a handful of those cases are expected to be set Friday.