Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Church settles Texan abuse claims

The Fort Worth diocese says it is committed to preventing abuse

The Roman Catholic Church in Texas has reached a settlement worth $775,000 (545,000) with five people who alleged they had been abused by priests.

All five victims said one priest - James Reilly - sexually assaulted them over 18 years while he served at a church in Arlington. He died in 1999.

One victim also complained of sexual abuse by two other priests, who have also since died.

The Bishop of Fort Worth, Kevin Vann, said he was deeply sorry.

In a statement from the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese, he said that he was committed to preventing such tragedies in future.

"Bishop Kevin Vann, in addressing the individuals, said he is deeply sorry for any sexual abuse the victims may have endured and suffered by Reilly, Hanlon and Scholl," the statement said.

"He further stated that such actions are a sin and a crime. The bishop told victims that he prays that healing and reconciliation can be achieved in their lives."

Preventing abuse

Bishop Vann added that the diocese would address any charge of abuse as quickly as possible.

"I am committed to ensuring that the diocese's policies are adhered to so we can prevent future tragedy such as that which has befallen the victims of abuse," he said in the statement.

The five involved in the claims said they were abused by James Reilly who served at St Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington from 1969 until his retirement in 1987.

Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina said he could not reveal details, such as the victims' genders or the dates of the alleged abuse.

One case also involved two other priests, James Hanlon and Gerard Scholl, both of whom served or taught in Texas and New Mexico from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Hanlon died in 1990 and Scholl died in 2002, according to records.

In 2006, the diocese settled with 11 men who said they had been abused by James Reilly when they were altar boys. The men received at least $1m (705,000) each and payment for one year of counselling.

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