$660M Clergy Sex Abuse Settlement OK'd

A judge has approved a landmark $660 million settlement between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and hundreds of alleged victims of clergy abuse.

The sum the church has agreed to pay will settle civil cases by 508 victims, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes. Each will be paid more than $1 million. The archdiocese has now paid a total of $764 million to settle sex abuse cases.

The deal was formally approved Monday in a dramatic hearing marked by the sobs of victims and their attorneys, and a moment of silence for those victims who died during the years of negotiations.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz called the settlement "the right result."

The deal came after more than five years of negotiations and is by far the largest payout by any diocese since the clergy abuse scandal emerged in Boston in 2002. The amount averages a little more than $1.33 million per plaintiff, although individual payouts will vary according to the severity and duration of the abuse.

The church is expected to pay $250 million in cash, with the balance coming from insurers and religious orders, reported CBS affiliate KCBS in Los Angeles.

What church officials knew and when they knew it remains sealed in personnel files — files that the archdiocese will surrender but must be reviewed in court before they are made public, adds Hughes Some may never be released.

Cardinal Roger Mahony sat through the hearing but did not speak. He issued an apology on Sunday, after the settlement was announced.

The lead plaintiffs' attorney for alleged victims asked his clients to stand during the hearing and thanked them for their resolve and their courage.

The attorney for the archdiocese, Michael Hennigan, also appeared emotional. He told the court his views of clergy sexual abuse changed dramatically during the years he spent trying to hammer out an agreement. He said private meetings with 70 of the plaintiffs made the most impact.

Although most parishioners responded with relief, some blamed Mahony for failing to reach a settlement in the local cases years earlier, reported the Los Angeles Times.

"I'm furious," Robert Sotelo, a retired West Covina electrician, told the Times after hearing Mahony celebrate Mass at the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. "Why did he take so long?"

Mahony did not directly address the legal settlement during the 10 a.m. Mass. A lay church member did, however, offer a brief prayer for victims of clergy abuse, as well as the homeless, prisoners on death row and others, the Times reported.