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Archdiocese of Los Angeles to pay $10M in priest abuse cases

10:02 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
Cardinal Roger Mahony. Photo courtesy of FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images.
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Michael Winter, USA TODAY

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay four men almost $10 million to settle allegations of sexual abuse by a former priest who more than a quarter century ago had confessed to molesting children, attorneys said Tuesday.

Two brothers will receive $4 million each, and the other two men will get nearly $1 million apiece, said John Manly, a plaintiff's attorney.

The settlement is the first since the Catholic Church released thousands of internal records detailing the actions of the defrocked priest, Michael Baker, and how church officials responded. Baker was convicted in 2007 of child molestation and paroled in 2011.

In January, as the files were about to be made public, a California judge ordered the archdiocese to identify all priests and church officials named in the documents.

The confidential files -- medical and psychiatric records, abuse reports, church memos and letters with the Vatican -- revealed that in 1986, Baker told Cardinal Roger Mahony that he had abused boys beginning in 1974. Mahony removed Baker from ministry and sent him to New Mexico for psychological treatment.

A year later, however, he returned with a doctor's recommendation that he not spend any time with minors and that he should be defrocked immediately if he did. Nonetheless, the abuse continued until 2000, when Baker was finally removed.

Mahony retired as Los Angeles archbishop in 2011. Last month, his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, stripped him of his official duties.

Mahony is in Rome participating in the conclave selecting the next pope. He was aware of the settlement, J. Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, told the Associated Press.

"We have for a long, long time said that we made serious mistakes with Michael Baker, and we had always taken the position in these cases that whatever Baker did we were responsible for," he said. "That was never an issue."

Two cases were scheduled for civil trial in April.

Another plaintiff attorney, Vince Finaldi, told the Los Angeles Times that he believed that the release of the files was a major factor in the settlement.

"Once we got the files it confirmed everything we had argued for years and years," Finaldi said. "Cardinal Mahony's fingerprints were all over the case."

USA TODAY

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