Judge Approves $660 Million Clergy Abuse Settlement

Monday, July 16th 2007, 7:16 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A judge on Monday approved a $660 million settlement between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse, the largest payout yet in a nationwide sex abuse scandal.

Some of the plaintiffs sobbed as the deal was formally approved and a moment of silence was held for others who had died during the years of negotiations.

``This is the right result,'' said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz. ``Settling the cases was the right thing to do, and it was done by dint of a number of extremely talented and dedicated people putting in an awful lot of time.''

The deal came after more than five years of negotiations and is by far the largest payout by any diocese since the clergy abuse scandal emerged in Boston in 2002. The amount averages a little more than $1.3 million per plaintiff, although individual payouts will vary according to the severity and duration of the abuse alleged.

Ray Bouchet, lead attorney for alleged victims, asked his clients to stand during the hearing and thanked them for their resolve and their courage.

``I know it's hard for most of the victims whose scars are very deep ... and I know many will never forgive the cardinal,'' he said. ``But he took steps that I think that only he could take and if left to the lawyers and others in the church he would not have settled this case.''

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the head of the archdiocese, apologized on Sunday after the settlement was announced.

Outside court, though, some plaintiffs weren't ready to accept his words.

Lee Bashforth held up a photo of himself as a young boy with the priest he says abused him. He called Mahony's apology ``disingenuous'' and said the settlement only saved the church from having to face questions before a jury.