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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
LA Church sale to fund sex claims
Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Archbishop of Los Angeles
Cardinal Mahony pledged not to close any parishes
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles has said his archdiocese will sell its main office to raise money to settle lawsuits for sexual abuse.

Cardinal Roger Mahony also said some 50 other buildings could be sold to settle hundreds of lawsuits brought by people who had been abused by priests.

In December, the archdiocese - America's largest - paid some $40m (20m) to settle 46 cases.

But it still faces more than 500 claims that have been in litigation for years.

'Quick settlement'

"Though it has always been the position of the archdiocese that the insurance companies must honour their responsibility to fund a major share of future settlements, the archdiocese must be prepared to fund its share," Cardinal Mahony said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the archdiocese's main administrative office - a 12-storey building in Los Angeles - would be sold to fund the settlements.

Cardinal Mahony also said that a working group had already identified some 50 other non-essential church properties for sale.

"No parishes or parish schools will be closed to fund these settlements, nor will their essential ministries be affected by these sales," the cardinal said.

He did not specify any timetable for those settlements, but expressed hopes that the matter would be resolved in "the near future".

The archdiocese last year settled 46 civil cases, paying some $40m (20m) of the total amount of $60m (30m). The rest was paid by insurers.

The cases related to two periods when it had limited or no insurance against sexual abuse claims - before the 1950s and after 1987.

But the archdiocese still faces more than 500 claims, with some experts saying that it could cost the church as much as $1bn (500m) to settle all of them.

The archdiocese says it has more than 4.3m Catholics in nearly 300 parishes.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse scandals in recent years, particularly in North America and also in Ireland.

In the US, a Boston-based scandal in 2002 led to the prosecutions of a number of priests, large payouts to dozens of victims and allegations of a cover-up by senior clergy.

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