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Catholic Diocese in US sets aside $12M to settle sex abuse claims

Catholic Diocese in US sets aside $12M to settle sex abuse claims

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston announced Friday it has agreed to settle child sex abuse claims, designating as much as $12 million (euro9.3 million) for damages.
The class-action settlement between the diocese and attorneys representing possible victims has been given initial approval by a judge, said Larry Richter, an attorney representing four people claiming abuse.
It is not clear how many victims there are. In 2004, diocese officials said there had been 45 credible abuse allegations in the state between 1950 and 2002 against 21 priests, one deacon and one deacon candidate. Recent negotiations revealed allegations against at least 26 priests, Richter said.
"What you find in this area is people can't just be molested and the next day step up to the plate and say 'I'm a victim,'" Richter said. "It's often after a very painful time in life."
Bishop Robert Baker, in a letter published in the diocesan newspaper Friday, said, "I deeply regret the anguish of any individual who has suffered the scourge of childhood abuse and I am firmly committed to a just resolution of any instance in which a person who holds the responsibility of a protector has become a predator."
The settlement allows compensation for sexual abuse victims born before August 30, 1980, and their spouses and parents.
Richter said the 1980 date was negotiated between the attorneys and the diocese, generally to assure the settlement would cover victims who otherwise could not sue under the statute of limitations in South Carolina.
An arbitrator will validate claims and determine the amount of compensation. A final hearing on the settlement will be held in early March.
The diocese said it was encouraging anyone who may have been a victim to contact an attorney.