The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, its former leader Cardinal Roger Mahony and an ex-priest have agreed to pay a total of almost $10m to settle four child sex abuse cases brought against them.

Cardinal Mahony was accused of helping a confessed paedophile priest evade the law by sending him to a church-run treatment centre.

The cardinal put him back into ministry where he is alleged to have abused again.

As part of the settlement, none of the parties admitted any wrongdoing.

The cardinal retired in 2011 as head of the largest US archdiocese. 

He was stripped of his remaining church duties in January by his successor Archbishop Jose Gomez for mishandling claims against dozens of priests.

Cardinal Mahony is currently in Rome to help elect the next pope.

The plaintiff's lawyer said the settlement, together with the recent release of internal church records documenting the role of Cardinal Mahony and others in covering up child sexual abuse by the clergy, comes "as close to an admission of guilt as you're going to get from the archdiocese".

He added that "Cardinal Mahony's fingerprints were all over the case".

The ex-priest involved, Michael Baker, molested the four young victims repeatedly in the 1970s, including on overnight trips to San Diego, according to the legal documents.

He was convicted of child molestation in 2007.

The lawsuits claim that then-Archbishop Mahony allowed him to continue to minister as a priest even though Baker admitted in 1986 that he had sexually abused minors in the past.

Cardinal Mahony has called Baker his "greatest mistake".