Deal Is Elusive in O.C. Abuse Talks

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Times Staff Writers

Lawyers for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, its insurers and alleged victims of sexual abuse negotiated into the evening Tuesday but failed to reach an agreement.

Talks broke off about 8:30 p.m. and will resume Thursday.

The parties said they were still optimistic that a settlement of 87 claims against the diocese was imminent. The lawyers will be back in court today to give another judge a progress report on claims against the four Southern California dioceses.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they would ask permission at that meeting to begin preparing to go to trial, something they have been prohibited from doing so far.


The cases against the Orange County diocese are among roughly 800 statewide filed against Catholic dioceses in 2003 under a California law that gave people one year to sue over allegations of childhood sexual abuse no matter how old the claims.

The lawsuits allege sexual misconduct by 26 clergymen and nine lay teachers, coaches and others, and two nuns.

The settlement would cover misconduct from 1976, when the diocese was created, until 2002.

The cases against the diocese included claims involving Siegfried Widera, a priest who was convicted of molesting a boy in Milwaukee before being transferred to Orange County -- where he allegedly abused again -- and Eleuterio Ramos, another priest who admitted sexually abusing at least 25 boys during a decade-long tenure as a parish priest in the diocese. Both are now dead.

Talks aimed at settling the cases have proceeded on and off for nearly two years. In June, plaintiffs rejected an undisclosed offer that included $40 million from Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown. Both sides soon began talking again.

Hundreds of cases filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are also in mediation. Lawyers involved in the process have said a settlement of the Orange County cases could set a benchmark for resolving Los Angeles cases.

Until now, the nation’s largest clergy abuse settlement was in Boston, where church officials paid $85 million to 552 people.