Pittsburgh — One of the largest Catholic dioceses in the United States says it has created a $1.25 million fund to settle 32 lawsuits alleging abuse or injury by priests.
In a joint statement with an attorney for the plaintiffs, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said it wanted to settle, even though Pennsylvania's statute of limitations barred many victims from filing personal injury claims.
The diocese is also offering a program of counselling and healing.
Alan Perer, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said it was "important and admirable for the diocese to step forward and offer these people help and some form of compensation."
Bishop Paul J. Bradley praised both sides for moving from an adversarial relationship toward "conciliation and agreement." Three lawsuits against the diocese remain pending.
Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the U.S. church at least $2.3 billion since 1950, including several multimillion-dollar settlements reached since the most recent crisis erupted in 2002.
The largest settlement announced so far involved the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which agreed to pay $660 million to about 500 people in July, shortly before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the first of 15 trials involving 172 abuse claimants there.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh includes more than 760,000 parishioners who make up nearly 40 per cent of the population in a six-county area.