BBC, Sep. 10, 2002
The Roman Catholic Church in the American state of Rhode Island has agreed to pay more than $13m in compensation to 32 men and women who accused several priests and a nun of child sex abuse.
Church officials in Rhode Island said they would seek both internal and external financing to fund the payments.
Correspondents say dioceses across the United States have been selling off land or borrowing heavily to settle child-abuse claims.
The Catholic Church in America has been rocked this year by a wave of revelations of priests sexually abusing children and cover-ups by senior clergy.
The settlement is the latest in a series of compensation agreements between the US Church and victims of paedophile priests.
In a statement, Providence Bishop Robert E Mulvee said he hoped the settlement would bring closure for the victims.
“This is a day long-sought that brings to an end the difficult and often contentious process of litigation that has been painful for most concerned,” he said.
“I hope that this action will be helpful to the victims of abuse and bring them in some way closer to closure and reconciliation with their God, their Church, their families and themselves.”
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US but has the highest proportion of Catholics – 624,000 out of a population of one million.
As well as compensating victims, the Church has taken a series of measures to deal with sexual abuse by the clergy.
In March, America’s bishops adopted a strict policy of reporting abuse claims to civil authorities, while Pope John Paul II issued an unprecedented denunciation of what he called “evil” acts among priests.
Some US dioceses have already paid out millions of dollars to settle law suits brought by victims.
Earlier this year the Diocese of Tucson, in Arizona, agreed to pay $14m to 10 boys allegedly molested over a 20-year period.
The US Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay between $15m and $30m to scores of people to settle claims that priests sexually abused them when they were children.
Almost 200 Catholic priests have been suspended in 18 different states since the child abuse scandal broke in January.
Many abusers are now being dealt with in criminal courts.