The San Diego diocese of the Roman Catholic Church has agreed to settle two sex abuse cases filed by men who claimed to have been abused by priests in the 1970s, one of their attorneys said today.

As I reported April 5, an attorney for the two men told me that he expected the cases would allow testimony in open court, for the first time, by alleged victims of molester priests. The attorney, Irwin Zalkin, also said he hoped to put diocese officials on the stand to answer questions about what he called a “cover-up” regarding molestation by priests.

But now, legal proceedings — including any testimony in open court — are called off thanks to the settlement. Devin Storey, another attorney who also represents the two men, said today that the diocese made offers about two weeks ago and the men accepted them. He would not describe the terms of the settlement, saying they were confidential.

What about the expectation that the cases would go to trial? “Had we not had the successes we had at the mediation, that would have certainly been the case,” Storey said.

A spokesman said the diocese “is not at liberty to make any comments about pending cases or their resolution.”

The cases had raised unique legal questions. The two plaintiffs, whose identities were kept secret, argued that their service in the military allowed them to bypass a statute-of-limitation law and still sue. A judge agreed.

Did the attorneys try to manipulate the media — meaning me — in order to get a better deal in negotiations with the diocese? The settlements, after all, came just days after my story appeared.

That’s possible. However, the attorneys didn’t come to me in an effort to publicize the two cases. I approached them when I was checking on the status of a judge’s efforts to examine and release files of accused priests in the San Diego diocese. (The judge has yet to release those files.)

While these two sex abuse cases against the diocese are resolved, at least a dozen more regarding alleged abuse remain in the local legal pipeline. They are awaiting a state Supreme Court ruling about whether alleged victims of long-ago sexual abuse can still sue.

In 2007, the diocese agreed to pay $198 million to 144 victims of childhood sexual abuse. But while those settlement talks took place behind closed doors, a trial would’ve allowed the San Diego public to hear courtroom testimony from alleged abuse victims for the first time.


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