LOS ANGELES -- The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese said yesterday that it will pay $60 million to settle 45 sex abuse lawsuits, the largest payout yet by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and among the biggest resulting from the molestation scandal that has plagued the church.
The cases were among the more than 500 abuse claims pending against the archdiocese.
"It's a day of healing and reconciliation as we move forward with these 45 cases," Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said. The claims settled yesterday involve 22 priests and include allegations from two periods when the archdiocese had limited or no insurance against sexual abuse claims -- prior to the mid-1950s and after 1987.
Mahony said $40 million would be paid by the archdiocese, $20 million would be from religious orders, and a small amount would come from independent insurance coverage.
Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs' lawyer, said the settlement was the largest the Los Angeles Archdiocese had reached, but at least two plaintiffs had died while awaiting the resolution.
"I wasn't certain we would ever get it done, but . . . very injured people will have a chance to begin to heal ," he said.
Boucher said all of the plaintiffs' lawyers were expected to sign off on the documents by Monday.
Don Steier, a lawyer who represents 11 accused priests, said in a statement that his clients were "pleased that these cases are moving toward resolution."
Steier said his clients were disappointed, however, that the archdiocese chose to pay "those claims that appear to be valid as well as those that are questionable."
David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was happy for the plaintiffs, but remained angry at church leaders.
"We recognize it for what it is, which is a purely business move designed to keep Mahony out of depositions and off the witness stand. That's what every bishop fears the most ," Clohessy said.
"His claim to care about healing is ludicrous in light of his expensive and hardball effort for years to delay and stall."
Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the US church at least $1.5 billion since 1950.