BEAUMONT, Texas — The Beaumont Diocese reached a settlement in a civil suit filed by six plaintiffs who claimed that they had been sexually abused more than 20 or 30 years ago by Father Ronald Bollich, a diocesan priest who died in 1996 at age 59. Terms of the settlement, reached after two years of negotiations, remained confidential at the plaintiffs' request, according to Bishop Curtis Guillory.
In a letter to Catholics of the diocese announcing the settlement, the bishop said that as the agreement was being reached, the court was considering motions on behalf of the diocese that could have resulted in dismissal of the suit.
"The attorney for the diocese continues to advise that we had valid defenses to all the plaintiffs' claims," said the bishop. "However, from the beginning, all the parties recognized that it would be in the best interest for all involved if the case could be resolved outside of the legal system."
"I believe we have acted in a responsible and amicable manner in the disposition of these allegations. My decision to settle this lawsuit at this time has been the result of much prayer, consultation and reflection," Bishop Guillory said.
"I am deeply saddened by the sexual abuse scandals that have affected the church and now our own diocese and the southeast Texas community," he said. "These global scandals have profoundly impacted many lives and have grieved our priests including myself."
He reminded Catholics of safeguards the diocese has had in place since 2003 with the program "Protecting God's Children."
More than 7,000 adults who work or volunteer in ministry for the diocese -- including all current priests and seminarians -- have been trained to recognize and prevent abuse. Background checks are conducted on priests, seminarians and any applicant for a job at the pastoral center, parishes and schools; volunteers also must undergo background checks.
In his letter, Bishop Guillory quoted Pope Francis, who said the "pain and shame" Catholics feel about the sins of some members of the church and their own sins "must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love."
Like our Holy Father, I too am grateful for the beautiful example given to me by so many individuals -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- who joyfully sacrifice their lives and their time," the bishop said. "I am especially encouraged by the priests of our diocese as they continue their pastoral ministry in light of the scandal and these recent allegations."
He called all to join him in prayer to ask God "to provide healing for all victims of sexual abuse and for all of us whose lives -- in any way -- have been touched by this pain."