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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK
US diocese settles sex abuse cases
Alleged victim Gary Bergeron
It has been a long struggle for the plaintiffs
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has reportedly agreed to pay $85m to more than 500 people who say they were sexually abused by priests.

The deal, which as announced by a law firm representing some of the plaintiffs, is the largest known payout by a US diocese to settle molestation charges.

News of the agreement came after months of negotiations between Church officials and lawyers for the plaintiffs - who say they were abused by clergy over the past six decades.

The plaintiffs have just over a month to decide whether to accept the offer.

Under the deal, victims would receive awards ranging from $80,000 to $300,000, according to a lawyer with the firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents about half of the plaintiffs.

The breakthrough comes more than two months after Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley was installed as head of the fourth-largest Roman Catholic diocese in the US.

'Time for healing'

One of the alleged victims, Bernie McDade, said he had pursued his case for the sake of "the children".

It's a good day for the archdiocese
Reverend Christopher Coyne
archbishop's spokesman

"This has to stop, this has to stop for the children and we are today a step closer to that as being a reality," he said.

Mitchell Garabedian, a victims' lawyer, said it had ben a painful case for many and they were looking forward to "getting on with their lives".

"I truly believe that we've made progress with this settlement or this proposal today and I think it's going to bring peace to many individuals," he said.

A spokesman for Archbishop O'Malley said it had been a "good day for the archdiocese".

"We haven't had too many over the last couple of years, but this is one," said the Reverend Christopher Coyne.

Crackdown

Bishop O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Law, resigned amid public outrage in December following allegations he had moved paedophile priests from one pulpit to another rather than confront accusations that they had sexually assaulted children.

Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley
O'Malley pledged to crack down on sex abuse in the church
The new archbishop gained national attention for cracking down on sex abuse in his previous assignments.

He said that the sums of money required to settle the abuse lawsuits were "staggering" but no amount could compensate for the damage caused by abuse.

Attempts to find a settlement followed the temporary suspension of court action earlier this year by both sides in an effort to negotiate an agreement.

For the settlement to go into force, it has to be accepted by at least 95% of the claimants.

Last year, the church reached a $10m settlement with 86 victims of John Geoghan, a Boston-area priest whose criminal conviction for sexual abuse caused the scandal to come to light.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rob Watson
"Many Catholics have lost faith in the men who lead their church"



SEE ALSO:
Bishop vows to tackle abuse fallout
01 Jul 03  |  Americas
Fourth US bishop steps aside
12 Jun 02  |  Americas


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