MONTPELIER, Vt.—  Dozens of former altar boys who sued Vermont’s Catholic church over allegations of sexual abuse by priests 30 years ago will share in a nearly $18 million settlement of their cases.

The attorney for the 26 plaintiffs and the bishop of the statewide Diocese of Burlington said Thursday they were pleased by the settlement, but both acknowledged that the cases had been difficult for the victims.

“Our clients are very happy to have the opportunity to close this chapter in their lives,” said plaintiff attorney Jerome O’Neill. “All of them know that nothing goes away, nothing changes the pain. They will live with this the rest of their lives, but at least now they can put this piece behind them and move forward.”

An arbitrator will divide the settlement among the plaintiffs, depending on the nature of their injuries, their recoveries and other factors, O’Neill said. Payments are expected by the end of June, he said.