The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said Friday it has agreed to pay $198.1 million to settle 144 claims of sexual abuse by clergy, the second-largest payment by a diocese. The agreement caps more than four years of negotiations in state and federal courts.
Earlier this year, the diocese abruptly filed for bankruptcy protection just hours before trial was scheduled to begin on 42 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse. Bankruptcy could shield the diocese's assets, but a judge recently threatened to throw out the bankruptcy case if church officials didn't reach an agreement with the plaintiffs.
The San Diego diocese initially offered about $95 million to settle the claims. The victims were seeking about $200 million.
"The diocese has always been committed to resolving this litigation in a way that fairly compensates these victims of abuse and would still preserve the ongoing ministries and programs of the church," Bishop Robert Brom said in a press release Friday.
"We pray that this settlement will bring some closure and healing to the years of suffering experienced by these victims."
In the largest payment yet in the scandal, the Los Angeles Archdiocese settled 508 cases for $660 million in July, two days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the first of 15 trials involving 172 abuse claimants there.
The Diocese of Orange agreed in 2004 to settle 90 claims for $100 million after a judge promised to set trial dates and begin the discovery process if settlement talks collapsed. Bishop Tod D. Brown later said he couldn't risk a trial in a state where a jury once awarded $30 million to two people who claimed they were sexually abused by clergy.
The Diocese of San Diego, with nearly 1 million Catholics and holdings throughout San Diego County, is by far the largest and wealthiest of the five U.S. dioceses to have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the shadow of civil claims over sexual abuse.
Dioceses in Spokane, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Tucson, Ariz., have already emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Davenport, Iowa, diocese, which faces claims from more than 150 people, is still in proceedings.
Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the U.S. church at least $2.3 billion since 1950. Some of the largest known payouts to victims since the crisis erupted in 2002 include:
- Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2007, agrees to pay $660 million to about 500 people.
- Diocese of San Diego, 2007, agrees to pay $198 million to 144 people.
- Diocese of Orange, Calif., 2004, $100 million for 90 abuse claims.
- Diocese of Covington, Ky., 2006, up to $84 million for more than 350 people.
- Archdiocese of Boston, 2003, $84 million for 552 claims.
- Diocese of Oakland, Calif., 2005, $56 million to 56 people.
- Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., 2007, agrees to pay about $52 million to 175 victims to emerge from bankruptcy protection; sets aside another $20 million for any future claims.
- Diocese of Spokane, Wash., 2007, agrees to pay $48 million for about 150 claims to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
- Diocese of Sacramento, Calif., 2005, pays $35 million to 33 people.
- Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., 2003, $25.7 million to 243 victims.
- Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., 2005, agrees to fund a settlement trust worth about $22 million for more than 50 victims to emerge from bankruptcy protection.