PROVIDENCE, R.I., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle most lawsuits alleging clergy sexual abuse, it was announced Monday.
Officials said all but two plaintiffs who filed 38 lawsuits a decade ago agreed to the settlement.
The plaintiffs, both men and women, alleged they were molested as children by members of the clergy, according to the Providence Journal.
"This is a day long sought that brings to an end the difficult and often contentious process of litigation that has been painful for most concerned," Providence Bishop Robert E. Mulvee said.
Mulvee said he hoped the settlement "will be helpful to the victims of abuse and bring them in some way closer to closure and reconciliation with their God, their church, their families and themselves."
At a news conference, Mulvee said that as bishop of Providence, "I reach out with deep sadness to the victims." He said he was "their pain that motivates" the settlement.
Officials said the settlement is to be paid within 10 to 15 years using both internal and external financing.
An attorney representing 32 of the plaintiffs, Carl P. DeLuca, said that in addition to the monetary settlements, "our clients received something that victims of sexual abuse hardly ever receive; they received an apology and a chance for closure."
Anita Guilbeault, 43, of Lincoln, abused as a teenager by her parish priest, said, "I feel emancipated."
The settlement came after Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause ordered the diocese this summer to release certain documents that the church had claimed were protected under the "clergy-penitent" privilege.
Lawyers for alleged victims had sought any information officials in the diocese had about priests accused of abuse, and when they obtained that information.
Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the nation, with 63 percent of residents baptized in the Catholic faith. There are about 624,000 Catholics in the state, which has a population of about 1 million people. There are 421 priests at the state's 157 parishes, according to the Journal.