Hundreds of people who say they were sexually abused by Rochester-area priests in New York have agreed to a $55-million financial settlement with the Diocese of Rochester.

“This was a long and difficult fight, but the terms of this new proposal are a validation of the hundreds of child abuse claims that this Diocese and its parishes are facing,” said attorney James Marsh.

The settlement still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy court and voted on by the approximately 475 survivors in the case. That process is expected to take about six months.

The settlement will create a trust for roughly 475 people who filed claims against the Diocese as part of its bankruptcy case. The Diocese, parishes and related entities will pay $55 million to the trust, along with the rights to the Diocese’s insurance policies. Many of the survivors will be able to pursue their claims in court in order to recover proceeds from those policies.

The amount of money to be paid by those insurance companies has been the subject of intense and at times heated negotiations.

The Diocese of Rochester includes 12 counties, stretching from Rochester through the Finger Lakes and into portions of the Southern Tier. A committee representing all of the Diocese’s creditors, mostly abuse survivors, negotiated the settlement with the Diocese.

“The settlement is the result of the Committee’s hard work and tenacity,” said Jim Cali, an abuse survivor and Chairman of the Creditors’ Committee. “The courage and faith of Rochester’s survivors empowered the Committee to stand up and negotiate a settlement on our terms.”

Survivors say they are happy to reach an agreement with the Diocese, but know their journey toward justice is not over.

“The bankruptcy case has lasted a long time, and the Diocese’s insurers still have not stepped up to provide an adequate recovery for survivors,” Cali said. “This settlement will allow survivors to take control of the process and pursue financial recoveries from the insurers that are acceptable to us.”

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Cali’s attorney, Leander James, who has helped broker bankruptcy settlements nationwide on behalf of abuse survivors said today’s court filing was a long time coming, with many abuse victims waiting decades to be heard and see some measure of justice.

“This is a historic day with a historic deal,” said Jeffrey Anderson, whose law firm represents 175 of the claimants against the Rochester diocese. He said the agreement also calls for non-monetary commitments from the Diocese, such as child protection measures and disclosure of secret documents.