$85 million in US church abuse deal

World News Australia/January 2, 2006

The Roman Catholic Church has reached one of the America's largest compensation deals for sexual abuse claims involving a church, after a judge approved a settlement of up to US $85 million.

The settlement covers 361 victims who claim they were abused over a period spanning half a century in the Roman Catholic diocese of Covington, which covers a large area of Kentucky.

Special Judge John Potter said a desire by the Covington diocese to make reparations contributed to the settlement.

"Contrary to what might be the case in other dioceses, the court believes that this professed desire is genuine and played a significant role in the diocese's decision," Judge Potter wrote in his 15-page ruling.

The diocese had originally agreed to pay up to US$120 million to abuse victims, but lowered the figure when a smaller number of victims than originally estimated came forward.

The victims' payouts will vary depending on the severity and duration of the abuse they suffered.

Payouts will range from US$5,000 to US$450,000 - with victims in the highest category of abuse eligible to apply to a special fund for extraordinary claims.

Some money will also be set aside to pay for counseling.

The Covington settlement may equal a 2003 Boston Archdiocese payout to 552 people, but it is less than a Diocese of Orange, California, agreement in 2004 to pay US$100 million to resolve about 90 abuse claims.

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