BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has agreed to a financial settlement involving 26 claims of sexual abuse by its priests, officials announced Thursday.
Church officials acknowledged abuse took place but would not disclose the amount of money that would be paid to each victim. Lawyers for the claimants also said terms of the settlement were confidential.
''We acknowledge there were incidents of sexual abuse,'' the Rev. Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, administrator and chancellor of the diocese, said in a written statement. ''We certainly condemn the behavior. We take this opportunity to apologize to the victims of the abuse as well as their families.''
The civil settlement was reached after more than a year of mediation. More than 20 lawsuits had been filed.
The claims involved allegations of sexual abuse beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the early 1990s, according to the Bridgeport law firm of Tremont & Sheldon, which represented many of the victims.
Church officials would not comment on the status of priests identified by the victims as their abusers, but cited a general policy of keeping priests out of situations where they pose a threat.
''That policy has been applied in these instances,'' Bronkiewicz said.
Lawyers representing the victims accused the diocese of covering up the abuse by transferring priests to other parishes. They accused Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, who was Bridgeport bishop before moving to New York, of participating in that cover-up.
''We felt the weight of evidence made it untenable for the diocese to continue to claim they did not know about it,'' said Cindy Robinson, a lawyer for the victims.
Diocese officials denied a cover-up and said they have adopted a model policy designed to prevent abuse in the future.
Egan released a statement welcoming the settlement.
''Any incidence of sexual abuse is painful for all persons involved, particularly those who are victims of such abuse,'' Egan said. ''It is my hope and my prayer that this resolution will enable true and deep healing to begin.''
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