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California Catholic Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Cases

After two years of talks, the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange, outside Los Angeles, has agreed to pay compensation to 87 victims of sex abuse by clergy. News reports say the settlement exceeds the record $85 million paid to sex abuse victims in Boston.

The settlement brings to a close about one-tenth of the 850 clergy molestation lawsuits in California.

The exact amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, but news organizations cite sources close to the case as saying it is higher than the $85 million awarded to hundreds of plaintiffs in Boston last year.

Bishop Tod Brown says the Orange County settlement is helping to end a difficult time for the church.

"Now, we have to recognize what has happened, seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and hopefully move on with our mission," said Mr. Brown.

Bishop Brown said the settlement would fairly compensate the victims in a way that allows the church to continue its ministry.

Church officials say the payment will not require the diocese, which serves one million Catholics, to close any parishes. It will, however, sell other church property.

The clergy abuse scandal first erupted in Boston in early 2002, when complaints came to light against former Boston priest John Geoghan, by more than 130 people who said he had molested them when they were children.

A number of U.S. Catholic leaders, including Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, have resigned as a result of the scandals. Bishops in Argentina, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Austria and elsewhere have also resigned amid accusations of abuse or charges of mishandling investigations.

About 500 lawsuits alleging clergy abuse are still pending in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.