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Cardinal sorry in record clergy abuse payout

  • Story Highlights
  • Archdiocese of Los Angeles to pay $660 million to settle sex-abuse claims
  • Settlement means the cases will not be tried in court
  • Settlement, which involves 508 plaintiffs, is expected to be finalized Monday
  • Jury selection in the trial had been scheduled to begin Monday
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Following a weekend of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a public apology, Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, is due in court today to formalize a record $660 million legal settlement.

Mahony is expected to personally attend a hearing before Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholtz.

He will be joined by attorneys for the archdiocese and lawyers for some of the approximately 500 people who claim they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests.

The settlement ends more than five years of litigation. It is by far the Roman Catholic Church's largest payout since the clergy abuse scandal first arose in Boston in 2002.

Mahony apologized Sunday to the plaintiffs, who claim to have been sexually abused by archdiocese priests. He acknowledged that the settlement will not buy back their childhood.

"There really is no way to go back and give them the innocence that was taken from them ... The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot -- and that is a restoration to where they were originally," Mahony, who leads the largest U.S. archdiocese, told reporters.

"It should not have happened, and should not ever happen again," he said.

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Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday for the first of more than a dozen clergy abuse trials, and Mahony was to have been among the first witnesses called. Mahony had met with many of the plaintiffs in sessions he said had "an enormous impact on me."

Steve Sanchez, one of the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed his case will not be heard in court.

"Whether you give me a check for $10 or $10,000, where can I take that check and cash it at some place to make me 10 years old again?" he told CNN.

Sanchez, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the settlement should have come years earlier.

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"The cardinal's dragged this on for a good five or six years now," he said. "Where we are at today or tomorrow with this settlement, could we have been here four, five or six years ago? Yes, we could have been if the cardinal had been outright and come forward and settled all these claims."

Esther Miller, another alleged victim, said the payout is "just the beginning of a different fork in the road."

"It doesn't mean I'm fixed ... It just means I will be able to pay for some of the treatments I should have gotten long ago," she said as she fought back tears. Video Watch what some plaintiffs have to say about the settlement »

Raymond Boucher, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the settlement, which involves 508 alleged victims, is expected to be finalized Monday morning.

About $227 million of the $660 settlement will be covered by insurance, Mahony said. Another $60 million will come from Catholic religious orders named in the complaints.

The archdiocese will have to sell some property and borrow money to pay its share, the cardinal said. But the deal "effectively ends all of the litigation involving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," he said.

As part of the settlement process, the Los Angeles archdiocese released documents that showed a pattern of denial: Priests accused of sexual misconduct took sick leave, were sent to therapy or transferred to other parishes, and most were allowed to continue in the ministry for years after the first accusations.

Mahony said "almost all" of the priests or brothers involved were eventually convicted of crimes, and most of the cases took place before he became the archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985. Some of the cases date back to the 1940s.

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Mahony acknowledged that not everyone would be satisfied, but he said the complaints have led to reforms within the church and efforts to protect young parishioners from sexual abuse.

"Even though I can't restore what was lost, there is good that has come out of this," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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