Arch­dio­cese of­fers com­pen­sa­tion for abuse

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Karen Matthews

The pay­outs are for vic­tims will­ing to forgo law­suits and agree to cer­tain con­fi­den­tial­ity rules.

Vic­tims of clergy sex abuse will­ing to forego law­suits against New York’s Ro­man Catholic arch­dio­cese can seek com­pen­sa­tion through a new church fund an­nounced Thurs­day, but any records of such abuse and what the church did about prob­lem priests will re­main pri­vate.

The pro­gram will be led by Ken­neth Fein­berg, who man­aged the fed­eral com­pen­sa­tion fund for Sept. 11 vic­tims, with over­sight by for­mer New York Po­lice Depart­ment Com­mis­sioner Ray Kelly, among oth­ers.

Car­di­nal Tim­o­thy Dolan, the New York arch­bishop, said he created the fund be­cause vic­tims have said they need “a tan­gi­ble sign of the church’s out­reach and sense of repa­ra­tion.”

“The wounds of many con­tinue to fes­ter, and they un­der­stand­ably tell us they await more com­pas­sion,” said Dolan, flanked by Fein­berg and Kelly, at a news con­fer­ence in the arch­dio­cese’s Man­hat­tan of­fices.

The arch­dio­cese an­nounced the pro­gram at a time when vic­tim ad­vo­cates are pressing New York leg­is­la­tors to ex­pand or tem­po­rar­ily abol­ish time lim­its on law­suits over child sex abuse. In other states that have done away with those time lim­its, law­suits filed by vic­tims have forced church lead­ers to re­lease thou­sands of in­ter­nal church files re­veal­ing how bish­ops shel­tered abusers. The lit­i­ga­tion has re­sulted in mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar set­tle­ments for hun­dreds of vic­tims and prompted some dio­ce­ses to seek bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion.

Anne Bar­rett Doyle, co-direc­tor of Bish­opAc­count­abil­, a Mas­sachusetts-based ad­vo­cacy group that main­tains records of clergy abuse, called the New York fund “an­other tac­tic de­signed to fend off dis­clo­sure.”

The in­ner work­ings of the fund will be pri­vate, al­though vic­tims can de­cide whether to reveal their in­volve­ment.

Marci Hamil­ton, a le­gal ex­pert who has ad­vised vic­tims, said the fund doesn’t elim­i­nate the need for a change in the statute of lim­i­ta­tions, but does pro­vide “an­other path­way for jus­tice.”

“It is a smart way to in­crease ac­cess to some kind of com­pen­sa­tion for vic­tims who prob­a­bly wouldn’t be able to han­dle the rig­ors of the le­gal sys­tem,” said Hamil­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of CHILD USA, a think tank on pre­vent­ing child abuse and ne­glect.

Un­der the pro­gram, peo­ple with abuse claims al­ready pend­ing with the arch­dio­cese will have un­til Jan. 31 to ap­ply for com­pen­sa­tion.

Dolan said about 200 peo­ple have made al­le­ga­tions against about 40 priests, and 30 of those vic­tims have al­ready agreed to vol­un­tary set­tle­ments.

A sec­ond phase start­ing Feb. 1 will be open to new ap­pli­cants, who will be asked for sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, such as ev­i­dence that they com­plained about the abuse at the time it oc­curred.

Fein­berg and me­di­a­tor Camille Biros will eval­u­ate the claims and de­cide how they will be paid. There will be no cap on com­pen­sa­tion and the arch­dio­cese has agreed to pay what­ever amount Fein­berg and Biros or­der. Each com­plaint will be shared with the rel­e­vant district at­tor­ney, Dolan said.

Fein­berg has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence me­di­at­ing vic­tims’ com­pen­sa­tion, in­clud­ing in the Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity sex abuse scan­dal and in the Orlando, Florida, night­club shoot­ing, the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing and the BP oil spill.

New York state law­mak­ers have long de­bated ex­tend­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on su­ing child sex abusers or cre­at­ing a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for past vic­tims to file civil suits against abusers. Such pro­pos­als have faced strong op­po­si­tion from the Catholic Church and other in­sti­tu­tions.

The lead­ing pro­posal in the Leg­is­la­ture would elim­i­nate the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for several child sex­ual abuse crimes go­ing for­ward. It also would cre­ate a one-time, one-year win­dow for past vic­tims to file civil suits at the time the mea­sure be­comes law. Vic­tims now have un­til they turn 23 to file law­suits, but sup­port­ers say it can take years be­fore vic­tims step for­ward.

In May, an at­tempt by sup­port­ers in the state Se­nate to force a vote on the mea­sure failed.

Dolan said the arch­dio­cese would take out a longterm loan to cover com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments and would not dip into funds con­trib­uted by church mem­bers to sup­port parishes, schools or char­i­ties.


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