Southern California Dioceses Agree to $198.1 Million Settlement

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The California dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino, which broke off from its southern neighbor in 1978, agreed Sept. 7 to pay $198.1 million to settle lawsuits with 144 victims of sexual abuse by priests between 1938 and 1993.

The dioceses had originally offered $95 million to settle the claims. The plaintiffs sought $200 million.

At a news conference Sept. 7, San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom said he expects "some damaging consequences for the mission of the church in this diocese for a number of years."

He added that it's too soon to know what those effects will be on church programs and staff. A task force will be formed to decide how the finance crunch will affect diocesan ministries, he said.

As an immediate consequence of the settlement, Brom said, the diocese will no longer be able to assist parishes in need or parishes that wish to take on construction projects.

Msgr. Steve Callahan, vicar general, said records related to abuse by church ministers will be released, according to the agreement.

"We want to convey, most of all, to the victims, we recognize how tragic it is what has happened," he said. "We know it's very painful when those facts come out, but we believe it helps the victims to heal when they have the assurance from us that we're not seeking to cover anything up as far as what took place."

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Earlier in the year, the San Diego diocese filed for bankruptcy protection hours before a trial was to begin in one of the first lawsuits alleging that the church was responsible for sexual abuse by priests. …