The Archdiocese of Miami secretly paid several men to settle sexual abuse allegations against a Roman Catholic priest, church officials acknowledged.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said church leaders promptly removed the priest and followed church guidelines for dealing with the allegations. She declined to say more because the settlements were confidential.
A lawyer in two of the cases identified the priest as the Rev. Joseph Cinesi.
"People should know that these things are going on and I'm glad that the shroud of secrecy is unraveling," attorney Russell S. Adler said.
Adler said he represented two men who won settlements in the late 1990s for incidents when Cinesi was at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale. Both men were over age 18 at the time of the abuse, Adler said.
Cinesi stepped down from St. Maurice Catholic Church in Broward County in August 1999, saying he wanted to fight false allegations.
Cinesi could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Another lawyer, Ellis Rubin, said he handled three settlements with the archdiocese for men who were molested as boys. Two of the men were altar servers. Rubin said confidentiality agreements in the settlements _ reached in 2000 and 2001 _ prevented him from naming the accused priest or the circumstances involving the case.
The scandal over sex abuse in the church has spread nationwide since January, when Boston Cardinal Bernard Law admitted a priest molested children for years but was shuttled from parish to parish. More than 130 people have said the defrocked priest, John Geoghan, abused them.
Since January, dozens of priests out of more than 47,000 nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign, and priests' names have been turned over to prosecutors.
A Florida bishop is the highest-ranking clergyman brought down by the scandal. The Rev. Anthony J. O'Connell, bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, offered his resignation after acknowledging he inappropriately touched a teenager more than 25 years ago.