It’s the largest payment from an archdiocese in the two decades since people confronted the Catholic Church over sexual abuse claims: $25.7 million to 243 people in Louisville.

It was also one of the quickest settlements, reached after only five days of negotiations.

For Louisville, a small archdiocese with 200,000 Catholics, the extent of the scandal and the financial impact have been of enormous proportions. In an archdiocese with 115 active diocesan priests, the plaintiffs accused 34 priests, 2 religious brothers and 3 laypeople of abuse from the 1940’s to as recently as 1997, said Dr. Brian Reynolds, the chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese.

Louisville was also home to what may be the worst serial abuser among the priests who have been called to account anywhere in the nation. Ninety of the plaintiffs said they had been abused by the Rev. Louis Miller, a retired priest who was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for child sexual abuse.

About three-quarters of the 243 plaintiffs said they had been molested by either Father Miller or three other priests.

Pressure on the archbishop mounted over the past few months as documents that surfaced through the legal discovery process revealed that he had failed to remove abusers from parish work and denounced a victim’s family.

Victims in Louisville were unusually well organized, holding candlelight vigils and starting a petition drive calling for the archbishop to resign. Yesterday, the victims’ support group Linkup was holding a prayer vigil outside the chancery offices when it received word that a settlement had been reached.

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