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California diocese pays $A9.7 million to man molested by priest

The Catholic Church in Southern California has paid a man a record $A9.7 million to settle a lawsuit in which he alleged that he was sexually molested by a priest when he was a boy.

The settlement, which legal experts called the largest publicly disclosed payment of its kind to a single person in the church's history, also calls for sweeping changes in the way the Church in Southern California handles sexual abuse claims against its clergy.

The new policy includes stricter enforcement of a "no fraternisation" off hours policy, a promise of swift action against priests who molest children, more monitoring of clergy and school teachers and increased assistance for sexual abuse victims.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, who approved the settlement, which was announced on Monday, also ordered church officials in the diocese of Orange County, where the abuse allegedly took place, and the archdiocese of Los Angeles, which allegedly had knowledge that sexual abuse had occurred and failed to act on it, to publicly apologise to victim, and to four men named as witnesses in the lawsuit.

Orange County Bishop Tod Brown issued a statement expressing "profound sorrow" and saluting the five men for their courage in coming forward to report the alleged abuse.

Diocese of Orange