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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 16:04 GMT
Boston Church seeks to settle claims
Bishop Richard Lennon with protesters in Boston
Bishop Lennon pledged to meet abuse victims
The interim leader of the Boston Archdiocese has told Church lawyers to stop litigation work and try to find a settlement to its long-running child sex abuse scandal.

Bishop Richard Lennon said he wanted a "fair and equitable" deal for victims of paedophile priests who were allegedly shielded by some Roman Catholic Church leaders.

Respectfully listening to [victims], I hope to learn the depth of their suffering

Bishop Richard Lennon
But he added that the archdiocese - faced with hundreds of lawsuits against it - was still considering filing for bankruptcy.

More files containing allegations of abuse by priests have been released, days after the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Boston archbishop who had become a focus of anger.

Bishop Lennon said he had three immediate priorities after taking temporary control of the archdiocese: to support victims, protect children and foster unity among the faithful.

As part of his commitment to victims, he said he supported a settlement of claims against the archdiocese "as soon as possible".

"I have asked counsel of the archdiocese to request that all parties set aside... day-to-day litigation activities for a period of time so as to permit all parties to actively pursue the potential for a comprehensive settlement of all cases," he said.

Bankruptcy decision

The Boston Church could face massive bills for damages and compensation for victims who suffered abuse from paedophile priests - sometimes even after alarms had been sounded about the clergymen involved.

Bishop Lennon said a decision was still pending on whether to apply for bankruptcy protection for the archdiocese, which could limit the liability of the Church.

But he added that he expected the archdiocese could settle by using insurance money and selling some of its property.

He also pledged to meet victims who wanted to talk to him.

"Respectfully listening to them, I hope to learn the depth of their suffering," he said.

"I will in turn extend to each of them my apology on behalf of the Church for the abuse which they have suffered."

New evidence

More instances of alleged abuse surfaced with the court-ordered release of internal personnel records, which showed how the archdiocese handled accusations against priests.

Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston
Cardinal Law says he will go on a retreat
The latest files show a priest admitted having sex with a 15-year-old boy over a period of months in 1978 but "didn't realise it was so harmful," the Associated Press news agency reported.

He was removed from his parish, put on sick leave and then reassigned to work in hospitals and nursing homes, the records showed.

Other released documents detail how a priest was allowed to say weekly Mass even after he had been accused of molesting boys while they slept.

Another was transferred from parish to parish even though a colleague complained he was "sick and needs help," Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week the Vatican agreed new guidelines for dealing with US priests found guilty of child sex abuse.

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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