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Catholic church to pay $1 million to settle abuse lawsuit

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (Reuters) - The Catholic church on Friday said it would pay nearly a million dollars to a man allegedly sexually abused at age 16 by a priest, who then tried to cover it up and hire a hit man to kill the victim.

Archbishop c said that the Archdiocese of San Antonio would pay the man, who is now 19, $946,000 to settle his lawsuit against the church.

"This is a very sad thing and very painful for me, for the church, for the family," said Garcia-Siller, who was just appointed San Antonio Archbishop in November.

Former priest John Fiala is charged with plying the unidentified boy in his parish in rural southwest Texas with booze and giving him a car in an attempt to 'groom' the boy for sexual abuse in 2007 and 2008, according to court documents.

He allegedly sexually abused the boy on several occasions on church property, frequently threatening to kill the youngster if he told anybody about the abuse, and once pointing a gun at the teen, the documents say.

Fiala was first arrested on a charge of sexual assault of a child in Kansas last September, but was released on bond. He was arrested again in November on charges that he offered an undercover Texas Ranger $5,000 to kill the teenager.

He has not yet been tried on the criminal charges.

Father Martin Leopold, who investigated the case after local officials reported concerns about Fiala, said that after his ordination into the priesthood in Nebraska, Fiala moved to Texas with a clean recommendation. This was even though a teenager in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska had complained of Fiala making a sexual advance in 2002, three years before he moved to Texas.

Fiala served as a priest at Society of our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity church in the small town of Rocksprings, which is west of San Antonio not far from the Mexican border. Neighbors said Fiala organized a youth baseball league, and reached out to troubled teens including the boy he allegedly abused.

(Reporting and Writing by Jim Forsyth, Editing by Greg McCune)