California diocese to pay US $5 million in priest sex abuse settlement

Associated Press/September 12, 2007

Santa Rosa, California — A California diocese has agreed to pay more than US $5 million to settle a sex abuse lawsuit involving a fugitive priest, according to a media report.

The lawyers said the Santa Rosa Catholic diocese will pay ten people $5 million out of church insurance funds and proceeds from the sale of orchard property adjacent to a local church, The Press Democrat reported.

Bishop Daniel Walsh will pay another $20,000 from his own pocket, Adrienne Moran, a lawyer for the diocese, told the newspaper.

"That shows the length that he's willing to go to compensate the victims and resolve their claim," Moran said.

The suit filed last year alleged that Walsh and prior bishops were negligent in supervising Xavier Ochoa, failing to conduct a background check and allowing him unsupervised access to children.

Ochoa was most recently a priest at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma.

He remains at large and is thought to have fled to Mexico in May of last year, a week after authorities say he admitted to Walsh and other church officials sexual improprieties with several children.

Over the past decade, the Santa Rosa diocese has spent nearly $20 million settling a series of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by its priests.

The agreement was reached Aug. 27 after mediation between the two sides.

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