For decades, the Catholic Diocese of Orange allowed child-raping priests to roam its parishes. For years, it covered up those crimes. For months, it stonewalled victims seeking justice.

Now the second-largest Catholic diocese west of the Mississippi is on the cusp of achieving victory in its notorious sex-abuse scandal.

At press time, sources told the Weekly the Orange diocese will agree this week to pay somewhere between $90 million and $110 million to settle about 87 lawsuits alleging molestation at the hands of church employees. If they’re right, it will be the largest diocesan sex-abuse settlement in Catholic Church history. The previous high was set last year by the Archdiocese of Boston, where a judge ordered then-Cardinal Bernard Law to dole out $85 million to 552 victims of pederast priests.

Despite the staggering sum, money was never really at issue. More important for Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown were information and prestige. After nearly two years of talks, the settlement will allow Brown to keep secret what many plaintiffs sought to make public—priests’ personnel files. Victims claim those files will prove church complicity in the molestations. And Brown, according to members of his staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, will not offer an in-person apology to the victims of his pedo-priests.

Most of the multimillions are expected to come from the diocese’s insurers, the Ordinary Mutual; coincidentally, Brown sits on the company’s board. His Excellency will raise the rest from the diocese’s extensive holdings and investments—upward of $270 million at the beginning of this year, according to church financial reports.

"We have kept our commitment to the victims of these crimes by remunerating them, with the help of our insurers, at a level that will be, in our view, significant, generous and compassionate," wrote Father Mike Heher in a confidential Nov. 30 letter to all Orange diocese priests. "For us, it will be very, very costly. But such a settlement would allow us, chastened, to move forward as a diocese."

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