Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen Carey kcarey@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

The Basil­ica of SS. Peter and Paul, head­quar­ters of the Archdiocese of Philadel­phia.

PHILADEL­PHIA >> The Archdiocese of Philadel­phia is ready to open up its wal­let to help vic­tims of child sex­ual abuse.

Archdiocese of­fi­cials Thurs­day an­nounced its cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent pro­gram to sup­port vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse – but some ad­vo­cates say it falls short. The an­nounce­ment came in con­junc­tion with seven other Ro­man Catholic dio­ce­ses in Penn­syl­va­nia in tak­ing steps to set up vic­tim com­pen­sa­tion funds, nearly three months af­ter a chilling grand jury re­port doc­u­mented decades of child sex­ual abuse by priests in the state.

Af­ter con­ven­ing with other bish­ops through­out the state fol­low­ing the re­lease of the lat­est damn­ing state grand jury re­port into sex­ual abuse of chil­dren this sum­mer, Philadel­phia Arch­bishop Charles Chaput cre­ated an In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions Pro­gram to pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for vic­tims of clergy sex­ual abuse, es­pe­cially those out­side the statute of lim­i­ta­tions of civil lit­i­ga­tion.

In Au­gust, the state grand jury re­port re­vealed more than 300 Catholic priests had abused at least

1,000 chil­dren in six dio­ce­ses dat­ing back decades, and ev­i­dence that church of­fi­cials had worked to cover it up. The find­ings echoed sim­i­lar find­ings of grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions into abu­sive priests in Philadel­phia and the John­stown-Al­toona dio­ce­ses.

The Archdiocese of Philadel­phia was not been in­cluded in the lat­est grand jury re­port re­leased in Au­gust since it had been cov­ered by pre­vi­ous grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions in 2005 and

2011 that iden­ti­fied a sim­i­lar pat­tern of abuse by priests and cover-ups by the church hi­er­ar­chy with policies meant to pro­tect the church, not the child vic­tims.

On Wed­nes­day, Chaput’s of­fice an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of the new pro­gram, stat­ing, “with to­day’s an­nounce­ment, the Arch­dioce­san com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing as many modes of sup­port and heal­ing for sur­vivors of sex­ual abuse and their loved ones reaches a new level.”

The archdiocese said the Of­fice for Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion will con­tinue its vic­tim as­sis­tance, which has pro­vided hun­dreds of in­di­vid­u­als with more than $18 mil­lion of re­sources and care based on treat­ment plans de­vel­oped by in­de­pen­dent ther­a­pists for more than 15 years.

The an­nounce­ments did not men­tion a to­tal dol­lar amount for the funds or their max­i­mum po­ten­tial in­di­vid­ual pay­outs. Nei­ther Chaput nor arch­dioce­san of­fi­cials ad­dressed how much money was in the fund. Chaput called the amount “sig­nif­i­cant” in a state­ment.

Pay­outs and to­tal fund amounts will not be dis­closed by the dio­ce­ses, and church of­fi­cials will have no say in de­ci­sions about el­i­gi­bil­ity or pay­out amounts, she said.

The In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions Pro­gram will be mon­i­tored by the In­de­pen­dent Over­sight Com­mit­tee, com­prised of for­mer U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Ge­orge J. Mitchell, for­mer in­terim Philadel­phia District At­tor­ney Kel­ley Hodge and re­tired U.S. Eastern District of Penn­syl­va­nia Judge Lawrence F. Sten­gel.

The com­mit­tee is tasked both with over­see­ing the new pro­gram and also reg­u­larly re­view­ing and eval­u­at­ing ex­ist­ing arch­dioce­san pro­grams re­lated to child pro­tec­tion and abuse sur­vivor as­sis­tance.

At­tor­neys Ken­neth R. Fein­berg and Camille S. Biros will ad­min­is­ter the claims sub­mit­ted to the pro­gram. The two served in a sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity for a claims pro­grams set up for sur­vivors of sex­ual abuse for dio­ce­ses in New York.

In ad­di­tion, Fein­berg had served as Spe­cial Mas­ter for the Septem­ber 11 Vic­tim Com­pen­sa­tion Fund and ad­min­is­tered the Au­rora Colorado Vic­tim Re­lief Fund, the BP Oil-Gulf Coast Claims Fa­cil­ity and the GM Ig­ni­tion Com­pen­sa­tion Claims Res­o­lu­tion Fa­cil­ity, in­ter alios.

Lynn Shiner, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Of­fice for Vic­tims’ Ser­vices at the Penn­syl­va­nia Com­mis­sion on Crime and Delin­quency, is re­spon­si­ble for sup­port­ing the claimants.

Arch­dioce­san of­fi­cials said the pro­gram will be funded by ex­ist­ing arch­dioce­san as­sets and money from the Catholic Char­i­ties Ap­peal, Sem­i­nary Ap­peal, donor-des­ig­nated funds or do­na­tions specif­i­cally made to parishes, min­istries or schools will not be used to fund this.

Some, in­clud­ing state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro, said other mea­sures should be taken.

“It’s now clear that the dio­ce­ses ac­knowl­edge the grand jury ac­cu­rately un­earthed hor­rific and ex­ten­sive abuse and coverup and, as a re­sult, vic­tims de­serve com­pen­sa­tion no mat­ter when their abuse hap­pened,” Shapiro said. “How­ever, the grand jury rec­om­mended that vic­tims de­serve their day in court – not that the church should be the ar­biter of its own pun­ish­ment. Th­ese un­de­fined com­pen­sa­tion funds do not give a pass to law­mak­ers – the Leg­is­la­ture should re­turn to Har­ris­burg, do their jobs and pass the grand jury’s four re­forms.”

Among those rec­om­men­da­tions was killing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for crim­i­nal charges in child sex abuse cases; ex­pand­ing

the win­dow for vic­tims to bring civil suits; and open­ing a two-year win­dow for past vic­tims to get their day in court. A bill to do all those things passed the House this fall but died in the Se­nate.

Karen Zehr, a sup­port group leader for Sur­vivors Net­work for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the ef­fort is be­ing done for ap­pear­ance.

“In my opin­ion, it’s to make them­selves look good to the pub­lic,” she said. “In re­al­ity, not a lot has changed.”

Zehr added, “Does it make a child safer in the Catholic Church to­day? But my in­cli­na­tion is no. They talk about it like it’s an is­sue of the past ... We know it’s still hap­pen­ing to­day every day.”

She said there was no in­di­ca­tion that iden­ti­fied priests would be named as a part of this process.

“Is the church be­ing truly open and trans­par­ent?” Zehr asked. “No ... If the Catholic Church re­ally cared, why do they spend mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars against (statute of lim­i­ta­tion) re­form? Stop fight­ing the re­form ... They’re spend­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars try­ing to now al­low things to come out.”

In ad­di­tion, she ques­tioned those cho­sen to be in­volved in the pro­gram.

“Ev­ery­thing looks like it’s very in­de­pen­dent, but I have no idea what their back­grounds are,” she said. “Are they Catholic?”

Arthur Baselice, whose son Arthur was abused for years as a stu­dent at Arch­bishop Ryan High School, had words of his own.

“Their rep­u­ta­tion is so soiled as far as I’m con­cerned,” he said. “Why should the peo­ple who cre­ated the prob­lem be able to con­trol the out­come of the prob­lem they cre­ated?”

He shared sim­i­lar con­cerns as Zehr.

“The church isn’t go­ing to par­tic­i­pate in any com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram that isn’t go­ing to ben­e­fit them,” Baselice said. “It’s more cost ef­fec­tive to do it this way than to go through trial ... To me, this is just a way to get peo­ple off the books. The prob­lem is the records are go­ing to re­main con­fi­den­tial. You’re not go­ing to be able to con­front your abuser in a court of law.”

Demon­strat­ing out­side the Cathe­dral of SS. Peter & Paul in Philadel­phia the first Fri­day of every month, he voiced a ques­tion.

“If you are a fol­lower of the Catholic re­li­gion, when you make the trip to the other side and you’re con­fronted by your maker and that en­tity asks you, ‘Why did you sup­port an or­ga­ni­za­tion that en­abled and pro­tected child abusers in my name?’, how do you de­fend that po­si­tion?” Baselice asked. “What do shep­herds do with their sheep? First, they fleece them. Then, they slaugh­ter them.”

The an­nounce­ments come as the chief fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Philadel­phia has be­gun in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Penn­syl­va­nia dio­cese of­fi­cials broke any fed­eral child ex­ploita­tion laws.

Ben An­dreozzi, a lawyer who rep­re­sents dozens of peo­ple in each of Penn­syl­va­nia’s eight dio­ce­ses who claim to have been abused by priests, said such funds can be help­ful. But, he said, they can also avoid full dis­clo­sure of what oc­curred, do not help vic­tims whose abuse had noth­ing to do with the Catholic Church and typ­i­cally de­liver less money to a vic­tim than a law­suit.

“The big­gest draw­back in a fund like this is that it does not force the in­sti­tu­tion to come clean with all the in­for­ma­tion that it has re­gard­ing the abuse,” An­dreozzi said. “And of­ten­times the vic­tims don’t get fair mar­ket value for their claims.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Philadel­phia Arch­bishop Charles J. Chaput

The Basil­ica of SS. Peter and Paul, head­quar­ters of the Archdiocese of Philadel­phia.

The Rev. Charles J. Chaput, arch­bishop of Philadel­phia.

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