Raleigh, N.C. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh paid more than $1 million last year to settle five sexual abuse claims against two priests from the 1960s and 1970s, according to an annual audit.
The nearly $1.2 million payout was about double what the diocese expected, spokesman Frank Morock said. The diocese had budgeted about $600,000 to cover the costs and drew money from a self-insurance fund maintained by its churches.
"Because people are hurting, dioceses try to do everything in their power to bring closure and a sense of justice to those who have made the complaint and everyone involved," Morock said.
No other settlements have been reached since the end of the fiscal year in June, he said. The diocese has 98 parishes and mission churches throughout eastern North Carolina.
The diocese has now paid almost $2 million to settle sexual misconduct claims made by 37 people against at least 15 priests since 1950. Two of the priests have been cleared of wrongdoing, while the others have either died or retired.
Diocese attorneys plan to contest three other complaints that could result in legal action, a move advocates for abuse victims said would intimidate other victims.
"It clearly says, 'Come forward if you want to, but we're going to fight you tooth and nail," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"Bishops and their lawyers still hope that, over time, victims will give up and go away, and struggle with the lifelong struggle they've had since childhood."
The sexual abuse scandal first surfaced publicly in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002. Since then, more than $1 billion has been spent nationally to settle claims and pay related costs, according to media investigations and reports commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the most recent settlement, a federal mediator in Washington state announced Thursday that the Spokane Catholic Diocese agreed to pay at least $48 million to people molested by priests as a part of a deal to emerge from bankruptcy.