By Peter J. Smith

LOS ANGELES, July 16, 2007 ( – The Los Angeles Archdiocese has agreed to pay out $660 million to over 500 victims of sexual abuse by priests and religious – a colossal price to pay for a long history of infidelity to Catholic teachings within the archdiocese.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz finalized today’s deal, which ends more than five years of negotiations and amounts to the largest payout by any diocese since the sex scandals gained national attention in 2002. The $660 million figure accounts for a quarter of the financial costs incurred by the Catholic Church in the United States.

The agreement requires the archdiocese to pay victims $250 million from assets acquired via parishioners’ Sunday collections and other donations for Catholic good works. The archdiocese’s insurance providers will pay $227 million, and religious orders, $60 million. The remaining $123 million will be negotiated between plaintiffs and other religious orders that opted not to join the settlement. The archdiocese indicated it would cover what the other orders do not.

Up to today, the archdiocese and its insurers had already paid more than $114 million – $1.3 million per victim – to settle 86 claims. 40% of the settlement will go to pay lawyers fees and the rest will be distributed to victims, spanning 70 years of abuse claims, based on the severity of the trauma experienced.

Mahony stated in a Sunday press conference that the settlement will not affect the LA archdiocese’s core ministry, but will force it to sell buildings – including its high rise administrative building and 50 other church properties – and tap into its invested funds and borrow money. Mahony said he has no plans either to close or to sell parishes or schools to cover expenses.

Mahony also apologized to the victims of sexual abuse and told reporters he wished he could erase their years of misery.

“During this time, I have come to understand far more deeply than I ever could the impact of this terrible sin and crime that has affected their lives,” he said.

The settlement, however, spares Mahony from testifying before a jury about his role in the concealment and cover-up of sexual abuse as chief administrator of the Los Angeles archdiocese. Mahony has been criticized by both Catholic and secular critics for his stubborn resistance to cooperate fully with investigations into allegations over the past 5 years.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating in 2003 resigned from the US Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board after describing Mahony and other bishops as behaving like a “criminal enterprise” following a “code of silence.”

“To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church,” Keating stated in his resignation letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, the head of the US bishops’ conference.

One major victory gained by plaintiffs in the settlement will be the release of priests’ confidential personnel files, including psychiatric evaluations, pending review by a judge. For years Mahony had fought to keep the files sealed until the US Supreme Court in 2006 rejected his argument against doing so, citing that the right to privacy was trumped by concern for the victims.

Katherine Freberg, an attorney representing 109 plaintiffs, told the LA Times, “It has been like painful dental surgery trying to get this information.”

The massive settlement shows that US Catholics have been forced to pay to pay a high price – over $2 billion – for their bishops’ toleration or promotion of infidelity to Catholic teaching among the clergy and religious. A Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that the “trail of abuse” in the Los Angeles Archdiocese and its surrounding area dioceses “leads inevitably” to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, known for producing dissident liberal clergy. Approximately 10% of St. John’s ordinands for Los Angeles from 1950-65 have been accused of molesting minors, and in two classes, 1966 and 1972, an incredible one third of graduates were later accused of molestation.

Mahony, however has shown little interest in promoting fidelity to Catholic teachings, as demonstrated by this year’s religious education congress. The congress featured speakers starkly at odds with actual Catholic Church teachings, including those favoring the ordination of women and homosexuals. ( Mahony has also resisted implementing the Vatican’s instructions that no homosexuals be admitted to the priesthood; according to statistics, homosexuals account for the vast majority of sexually abusive priests.

The LA archdiocese’s settlement means the neighboring Diocese of San Diego now has the largest number of outstanding sexual-abuse claims in the nation.
See related

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