The archdiocese of Boston is in the final stages of negotiating a $30m (£21m) settlement with 86 people who say they were abused by John Geoghan, a defrocked priest whose conviction on child molestation charges last month has triggered a crisis for the Catholic Church across the United States.
The damage to the Church in Boston has been severe because of the disclosure that it had shunted Mr Geoghan from parish to parish, aware of the allegations against him.
Mr Geoghan is said to have molested 130 children during 30 years. Boston's Cardinal, Bernard Law, has resisted calls to resign.
Cardinal Law, instead, announced a new policy of "zero tolerance" for any priests implicated in child abuse cases. In recent weeks, he has given the names of 80 Boston-area priests to prosecutors. Among them, 10 have been suspended.
Beyond Boston, Roman Catholic leaders across the country feel they are under intense pressure to clean their own houses.
Earlier this week, up to a dozen priests were removed from duty by the archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Last week, two priests in the archdiocese of St Louis were removed from duty after allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the 1980s, church officials said, even though the priests had been through counselling and treatment and had later been allowed to work as family pastors.
The Boston settlement, if it is finalised, would be one of the largest in the Church's history in America.
Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said yesterday: "We're still discussing the settlement."
Donna Morrissey, an archdiocese spokeswoman, said: "Our goal is to achieve a fair and just resolution of these cases as soon as possible in the best interest of the victims."
Even if a payout is agreed, the Church in Boston still faces 48 other suits pending against other area priests.
Mr Garabedian said: "What you're seeing now is the natural result of the archdiocese covering up in past decades the fact that so many child abusers were within its ranks."Reuse content