The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, announced Thursday it has settled 26 clergy abuse lawsuits dating back to the 1970s for $17.6 million.
This covers all pending lawsuits of this type against the diocese, according to a letter posted on its website by the Rev. Salvatore R. Matano, the bishop of Burlington.
"I once again apologize most sincerely for the pain the victims have suffered," writes Matano. "I ask that you join me in praying always for these wounded and hurt brothers and sisters. It is my constant hope that one day we will be united in the faith."
In addition, Jerome O'Neill, the lead attorney for the victims, said two other cases that were on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court involving million-dollar jury verdicts have been settled separately, taking the total settlement figure to more than $20 million.
According to O'Neill, his clients had mixed feelings about the settlements.
"They are glad to have it over with for the most part," he said in an interview with CNN Radio. "In some respects it's an emotional letdown because they would like to be able to have a jury hear what they have to say, but there's also great value for them in putting this chapter of their lives behind them."
O'Neill said most of the cases involved allegations of molestation of altar boys by the Rev. Edward Paquette, a priest who served in Vermont from 1972 to 1978. Paquette was suspended by the diocese that year but wasn't defrocked by the Vatican until 2009. He apologized for his actions last year in an interview with the Burlington Free Press.
The diocese says the cost of the settlements is its own responsibility. The diocesan administration building and another one of its properties have been placed on the real estate market to help cover those costs, Matano said in his letter. Also, the diocese has secured an interim loan using diocesan property as collateral.
O'Neill quoted one of his clients as he said people don't understand this is not about a situation 30 years ago: "It's about an institution that knew all along what it was doing when it covered it up, and by covering it up they failed to protect the children."