San Diego church in 198 mln dlr payout to sex abuse victims

The Roman Catholic Church in San Diego will pay nearly 200 million dollars to 144 victims of sexual abuse by priests, the second biggest payout of its kind in US history, lawyers said.

San Diego church in 198 mln dlr payout to sex abuse victims
Lawyers for the dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino and the victims thrashed out the 198.1-million-dollar settlement after protracted negotiations at the city's federal courthouse.

Each victim will receive an average of 1.3 million dollars, lawyers said in announcing the deal, which comes just two months after the Los Angeles diocese agreed to a record 660-million-dollar settlement to people who suffered abuse.

"This settlement recognizes the enormous courage of the survivors and all parties hope that this settlement will bring some relief for the pain that the survivors have endured for so long," said Irwin Zalkin, an attorney representing a number of abuse victims.

The exact amount each victim receives will be determined by a court at a later date, a joint statement said. San Diego Bishop Robert Brom said he hoped the settlement would give closure to victims.

"The diocese has always been committed to resolving this litigation in a way that fairly compensates these victims of abuse and would still preserve the ongoing ministries and programs of the church," Brom said.

"We pray that this settlement will bring some closure and healing to the years of suffering experience by these victims."

The settlement comes after years of negotiations between victims and the California city's diocese. In February the church body filed for bankruptcy protection, arguing it was the best way to facilitate compensating victims in the case.

The diocese previously offered to settle the case for 95 million dollars, but eventually agreed to more than twice the amount.

Afterwards, victims expressed relief that their legal battle was over but angrily accused the church of delaying tactics.

"They knew all along that I'd been molested, so to put me through this is unconscionable," Michael Bang told reporters outside court.

Another woman said the church had deliberately concealed the crimes of priests involved in abuse allegations.

"What happened to us should never have happened," she said. "They knew that this priest was molesting us, and they moved him around, and let him molest other children. This should never have happened."

"This day will always be remembered by people as what was most important. That you can't abuse a child and not be held responsible," another man said.

Zalkin said the fine details of the deal still need to be settled and approved by a court, which would most likely take place in October.

Since the beginning of the nationwide sex abuse scandal five years ago, Catholic authorities in the United States have paid out close to 2.8 billion dollars in damages to victims.

The cases in California were filed after authorities waived the state's statute of limitations regulations concerning abuse allegations, allowing hundreds of victims to come forward.

AFP
Last Mod: 08 Eylül 2007, 11:02
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