Bishop ‘at peace’ with nation’s largest settlement for sexual abuse

The nation's largest settlement for victims of sexual abuse by clergy was agreed upon Dec. 2. The settlement, which involved the Diocese of Orange and 87 victims, was welcomed by the bishop, parishioners and the victims.

"I am at peace with the settlement," Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange reportedly said after Sunday mass at Holy Family Cathedral. "The victims will be fairly compensated and, at the same time, our diocese will be able to continue our mission of service."

The bishop said he was moved by those victims who embraced him after the settlement was announced and accepted his personal apology for the misconduct of priests and lay people. Some victims said they want to return to the Church, he said.

"We welcome all those who wish to return, welcome them back warmly into our community," he said, according to a report by the Associated Press. "Let us pray for that important goal of forgiveness and reconciliation with these victims who through no fault of their own became tragic figures in the history of our church."

The bishop said he would only disclose the details of the settlement once it is finalized this week. However, the AP has reported that attorneys involved in the negotiations have said privately that the diocese and its insurers will pay $100 million to 87 victims.

The settlement in Orange exceeds the previous record of $85 million awarded to 552 victims of clergy abuse in Boston in 2003.  There is no doubt that this case may serve as a model in settling other claims in the state.

Thirty of the plaintiffs in the Orange County case settlement also have claims against the Los Angeles Archdiocese, reported the Los Angeles Times. Those cases predate 1976, when the Orange County diocese was created from the Los Angeles territory.

The cases were filed last year under a special state law that gave alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse one year to sue no matter how old the case.

Some church officials have argued the law unfairly targeted Catholic dioceses, forcing them to defend old claims involving witnesses who may be now dead or files that have been discarded.

Several California dioceses have sought to have the law declared unconstitutional.

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