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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Catholic Church offer considered
By David Bamford
BBC Washington correspondent

Archbishop Sean O'Malley, left, greets Gary Bergeron, an alleged victim
The new archbishop is seeking closure with alleged victims
Five law firms representing over 500 alleged victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States have been meeting to discuss a $55m compensation offer by the Archdiocese of Boston.

Lawyers of the plaintiffs have welcomed the offer by the new Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, as a welcome step, but say there are still many issues to clarify.

The Boston law firms have set up a steering group to discuss the details of the church's dollar offer and whether their 540clients will accept it.

For the deal to go through, 95% of the claimants must accept it within a month.

Day in court

Already some individual plaintiffs have said they intend to oppose any collective settlement and want to be dealt with separately.

Many say they do not want to be cheated of the right to confront those responsible for their abuse.

"It was never about money for me." said one alleged victim.

"I still want my day in court. I want to see the people. I want them to know that I exist. I want to see the people that were in charge and allowed this to happen."

The newly appointed Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, has judged that the harm that would be done by dragging out the abuse scandal in the courts outweighs any benefit the church might gain from defeating those claimants with weak cases.

If the deal goes through the individual amounts each claimant would receive would be weighted, but that process, assessing and putting a price on each abuse will for many victims be a painful one.

"I am not trying to sit here and sound greedy, by no means, but you know I think they should themselves sit down and see what a child's innocence is worth." said another plaintiff.

The BBC's Bidget Kendall
"Anew archbishop has been installed as the first sign of a new approach"

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