New Mexico archdiocese to pay $121.5 million to settle sex abuse claims

A Christian Catholic cross is silhouetted in Saint-Fiacre-sur-Maine
REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

May 18 (Reuters) - In one of the largest cash settlements involving sex abuse and the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, reached a tentative $121.5 million agreement to resolve clergy abuse claims.

The money will compensate survivors of sexual abuse in parishes in Northern New Mexico, the Archdiocese said on Tuesday in a letter to parishioners explaining the agreement.

The archdiocese, as with others in the nation, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under pressure from the torrent of lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse.

The settlement involves more than 350 victims and 74 credibly accused priests, according to Bryan Smith, an attorney representing 111 of the claimants. Some of the alleged abuse happened more than four decades ago.

"For the clients, just the acknowledgement of wrongdoing is a huge deal," Smith said. "This goes back generations, it's betrayal that must be accounted for."

In its letter to the parishioners, the archdiocese said, "The church takes very seriously its responsibility to see survivors of sexual abuse are justly compensated for the suffering they have endured."

"We in the Archdiocese of Sante Fe never cease to keep those who have been harmed by sexual abuse our first priority," the letter reads.

The settlement also includes an archive documenting the abuses and will host prayer services and meetings with "survivors of sexual abuse," the archdiocese wrote.

An archdiocese spokesperson was not immediately available for further comment.

In April, the Diocese of Camden, N.J. agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle sex abuse lawsuits involving 300 victims, the Courier Post and other media reported.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by David Gregorio

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