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LA clergy sex abuse cases settled for $10 million

LOS ANGELES -- A Roman Catholic religious order and the Los Angeles Archdiocese will pay $10 million to settle allegations of clergy sexual abuse, according to representatives of those involved.

The Carmelite order will pay most of the settlement to seven people, including two who said they were sexually molested at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino. The archdiocese will contribute about 5 percent, a church spokesman said.

"We are encouraged by every settlement, and we hope every one leads to another," said J. Michael Hennigan, a lawyer who represents the church in Los Angeles.

Defendants included the Rev. Dominic Savino, 67, a Carmelite priest who was fired as the school's president and suspended from the priesthood in 2002 after allegations surfaced that he had molested boys in the 1970s.

Former school principal John Knoernschild and two other members of the order not associated with the school were also named.

John C. Manly, a victims' lawyer, complimented the Carmelites "for stepping up and doing the right thing," but said no amount of money could make up for the damage inflicted by the sexual abuse.

"It's been a long, hard road for the victim," he said of one of his clients.

The Carmelites ousted Savino shortly after a woman reported to the Los Angeles Archdiocese's hot line that he had abused her twin sons during a 1979 field trip.

The seven Carmelite cases are dwarfed by more than 560 unresolved allegations by people who say they were abused by Catholic priests in Southern California over the past 70 years. That litigation has been pending for years as dozens of lawyers try to agree on a settlement.

Savino originally went to the all-boys school in 1977 as a part-time counselor. He left in 1986 to pursue a doctorate in psychology, then returned in 1995.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops announced this week that it will vote next month on a proposal to release $335,000 of the $1 million earmarked for research on sexual abuse by clergy. The money would fund the first three parts of a study being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

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