The Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, has agreed to a lawsuit settlement that pays $12 million to 30 victims of sexual assault at two Catholic high schools in the Seattle area.
A settlement agreement has been in the works for the past year and was just announced on Tuesday. The decision to award $12.125 million dollars comes after 30 male plaintiffs filed lawsuits in the King County Superior Court, claiming that they had been sexually abused as children when they attended two Seattle-area Catholic schools from the 1950s to 1984. The plaintiffs range in age from 42 to 68.
The lawsuit alleged that the Archdiocese of Seattle failed to protect the 30 men from the known sexual predators who were employed at the two schools, O'Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School. The schools were run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland religious order and the Archdiocese of Seattle.
"I deeply regret the pain suffered by these victims," Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain told The Seattle Times newspaper in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing."
Michael Pfau, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press that the archdiocese, under the leadership of Archbishop Sartain, "did the right thing and acknowledged the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that our clients, their families and our community have endured."
"This settlement is the first step in allowing all parties to focus on the future," Pfau added.
The plaintiffs in the case will receive their settlement money in three installments this summer. The money will come from archdiocese insurance programs, as well as the money collected when the Christian Brothers of Ireland declared bankruptcy in 2011. The religious community was ordered to liquidate most of its assets and award the proceeds to victims of the abuse.
This most recent settlement relates to the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church for the past several decades. Earlier this year, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the "evil" that some priests have committed and the "damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children."
Francis demanded more vigilance in the fight to counter such abuse, adding, "We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed."
"On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children."