A tentative $28 million settlement was announced by attorneys for the Los Angeles Franciscan order and 28 plaintiffs who charged they were molested by friars – many of them at St. Anthony’s Seminary and the Santa Barbara Mission – during the past 50 years. The settlement came a week before the first Franciscan sex abuse trial was set to start. The alleged molester in that case, Brother Mario Cimmarrusti, repeatedly refused to answer questions in a recent deposition on the grounds that his answers would incriminate him. In addition to the financial payoff, the Franciscans agreed to disclose public statements made under oath by current and former Franciscans during recent court-ordered depositions. According to attorney Tim Hale, representing 13 of the plaintiffs, the depositions illuminate in disturbing detail a cloistered culture in which sexual abuse was allowed to flourish. Hale said the earliest instance of sexual abuse he was able to document occurred in 1937; the most recent incident was in the mid ’90s. The priest in that case, Hale said, was transferred to a parish in the San Francisco Bay area, where he allegedly molested again. In anticipation of a sizable settlement, the Franciscans began selling off real estate in recent years, including St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara.

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