Boston The Boston Archdiocese, after more than a year of embarrassing revelations and arduous efforts to deal with them, has offered $55 million to settle more than 500 clergy sex abuse lawsuits, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.
The offer came Friday, just nine days after Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley was installed as head of the fourth-largest diocese in the United States. Lawyers who represent hundreds of alleged victims said it was unlikely the offer would be accepted in its present form, but they called it a hopeful sign that a resolution was near.
"I look at this as the first responsible proposal that has been made to try to resolve these cases," said Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents more than 200 alleged victims. "It's certainly not going to be the final one, but it's constructive and it's worth having a dialogue about."
The settlement would resolve claims from men and women who said they were abused as children by about 140 clergy within the Boston Archdiocese while church hierarchy routinely ignored the misdeeds. A recent report from the state attorney general estimated that more than 1,000 children were abused over six decades.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on the proposed settlement, saying both sides had agreed not to discuss negotiations publicly.
If approved, it would be by far the largest deal to settle allegations of clergy abuse since the scandal broke in early 2002. In June, the archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., agreed to pay $25.7 million to 243 people who said they were abused.
Last year, the Boston Archdiocese reached a $10 million settlement with 86 victims of a single priest whose offenses helped touch off the scandal. A previous $20 million to $30 million settlement with those victims fell apart when the church said it couldn't afford it.
It was unclear where the archdiocese would get the money to pay the proposed $55 million settlement. Insurance was expected to cover some of it. Insurance covered all of the $10 million deal.