California Dioceses Reach Record $10 Million Sex Abuse Settlement

The Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have reached a combined $10 million settlement in a clergy child sex abuse case involving two of Orange County’s most notorious predators, attorneys with a high-profile sexual abuse law firm announced on Friday, Jan. 26.

The settlement — which includes $9.5 million from the Diocese of Orange and $500,000 from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — heads off what was expected to be among the first to go to trial of a massive wave of lawsuits filed against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide by now-adult survivors who were given a three-year window under state law to file civil complaints regarding decades-old abuse.

It is believed to be the single largest settlement received by an individual against a religious organization, said attorney Morgan Stewart, whose Irvine-based firm — Manly, Stewart & Finaldi — represents more than 200 alleged clergy sexual abuse victims across the state.

“This is demonstrative of the acknowledgment of their failures,” Stewart said of the church leaders. “Our client wanted this resolved and wanted it resolved at a number that recognized their responsibility and harm.”

Asked for comment about the settlement, Diocese of Orange officials said their “foremost goal has been to address these cases and offer support and healing to all those affected…

“While we do not comment on settlement details, it is important to note that the allegations in this case date back more than 40 years and do not reflect the Diocese of Orange as it stands today nor capture our extensive efforts over the past two decades to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults and prevent future abuse,” Diocese of Orange Spokesman Jarryd Gonzales said. “The Diocese of Orange deeply regrets any past incidences of sexual abuse, and we remain unwavering in our commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults and supporting those suffering.”

Officials with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit centered on the actions of Father Eleuterio Ramos, who before his death admitted to sexually assaulting more than two dozen boys during a decades-long career that included stops in multiple parishes in Orange County, along with Father Siegfried Widera, who at the time of his death was one of the most wanted sex crime fugitives in North America.

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