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L.A. Catholic Diocese to Pay $660M in Abuse Cases

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

We sent an NPR producer to the Los Angeles Cathedral to ask people what they of the settlement. And the first person you're going to hear is Carlos Perez Careyo(ph), who says he himself was abused by a priest.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELLS TOILING)

CARLOS PEREZ CAREYO: Losing a faith that was so part of your daily life - losing your Catholicism because you can't believe in the institution anymore.

CLARISSA KELLER: Sometimes when something bad happens, people realize what they did and then they repent and then through the change they can help others not to ever do this again.

ROBERT HENDERSON: You know, some are good and some manages to succumb to temptation, whatever, I don't know. I leave that to God, to be honest with you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports that this settlement heads off 15 civil trials.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: The settlement spares the church a string of damaging and costly trials. The first was to begin today in superior court with the case of Father Clinton Hagenbach. Hagenbach, who died in 1987, left a legacy of more than a dozen traumatized boys. Steven Sanchez was one of them. He says the abuse lasted throughout his teens.

STEVEN SANCHEZ: The things that happened to myself and the other victims of this perp were similar to things that would happen to a weak male in the prison system.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Sanchez says his treatment was typical. At first the archdiocese claimed they had no records about Father Hagenbach. Then they said they had 80 pages in his file. Then they gave his lawyers a 240-page summary. And when the case went forward, Sanchez was grilled by attorneys for the archdiocese and the insurance companies.

SANCHEZ: I had to go through a deposition. My mother and my father had to go through depositions, my little brother, my big brother. You know, everybody's been dragged through this whole thing again.

MICHAEL HENNIGAN: In order to get to a just result, a lot of information had to be obtained, and that's usually painful.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: That's the lead attorney for the archdiocese J. Michael Hennigan. He says Cardinal Roger Mahony repeatedly apologized to victims and sat down with 70 of them. Hennigan says the archdiocese was eager to settle the claims and move on, but their co-defendants were not.

HENNIGAN: We would have loved to have done this years ago, but it was going to take these cases ready for trials before the insurance carriers were going to have satisfied themselves that they've done what they needed to do to protect their own shareholders.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: The archdiocese will pay $250 million in cash with insurance companies and religious orders covering the rest. The church will sell off properties, but it says it will not close any churches or parish schools. The plaintiffs will receive on average $1.3 million dollars apiece, a hefty sum that will not buy the one thing Steven Sanchez wants.

SANCHEZ: Where can I take that check and cash it into someplace that can make me 10 years old again?

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for NPR, reporting on the intersection of faith and politics, law, science and culture. Her New York Times best-selling book, "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality," was published by Riverhead/Penguin Group in May 2009. Among others, Barb has received the American Women in Radio and Television Award, the Headliners Award and the Religion Newswriters Association Award for radio reporting.