Chaput: Why the church is of­fer­ing repa­ra­tions to vic­tims of abuse

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - By Rev. Charles Chaput Times Guest Colum­nist The Rev. Charles J. Chaput is arch­bishop of the Philadel­phia archdiocese.

As many of you will re­mem­ber, less than two months ago each of the Catholic bish­ops of Penn­syl­va­nia pledged to of­fer sub­stan­tial new sources of sup­port for sur­vivors of clergy sex­ual abuse. In the weeks since then, we’ve worked zeal­ously to keep that prom­ise. To­day in the Archdiocese of Philadel­phia, we are hon­or­ing that pledge, with a spe­cial con­cern for vic­tims bur­dened by time­barred claims.

The dam­age done to in­no­cent young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies by sex­ual abuse in the past is pro­found. It can’t be erased by apolo­gies, no mat­ter how sin­cere. And money can’t buy back a wounded per­son’s whole­ness. But what com­pen­sa­tion can do is ac­knowl­edge the evil done and mean­ing­fully as­sist sur­vivors as they work to find greater peace in their lives.

To that end, I’m an­nounc­ing the cre­ation of a new repa­ra­tions pro­gram avail­able to any­one abused in the past by clergy of the archdiocese. This “In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions” ef­fort will be funded by the Archdiocese. We will pay the amounts that in­de­pen­dent claims ad­min­is­tra­tors deem ap­pro­pri­ate.

While the to­tal num­ber of claims and the ul­ti­mate fund­ing re­quired can­not be known at this time, the fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment from the archdiocese will be sig­nif­i­cant. Ini­tial fund­ing for the pro­gram will be pro­vided by ex­ist­ing arch­dioce­san as­sets. Ad­di­tional pro­gram fund­ing will need to come from bor­row­ing and the sale of arch­dioce­san prop­er­ties. Which prop­er­ties will be sold has not yet been de­ter­mined.

Note that no money to fund the pro­gram will come from our Catholic Char­i­ties Ap­peal, Sem­i­nary Ap­peal, other donor-des­ig­nated funds or do­na­tions made to parishes, min­istries, and schools.

This new pro­gram will be sep­a­rate from, and add to, our al­ready ex­ist­ing sur­vivor-as­sis­tance ef­forts. The good work of the Archdiocese’s Of­fice of Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion, led by Leslie Dav­ila, a for­mer vic­tim-as­sis­tance of­fi­cer with the Philadel­phia district at­tor­ney and a vic­tim’s ad­vo­cate for 19 years, will con­tinue. Ms. Dav­ila’s team has pro­vided more than

$18 mil­lion dol­lars of as­sis­tance to vic­tims al­ready, and again to be clear, to­day’s new com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram is in ad­di­tion to those ef­forts.

I want to turn now to the new com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram and some of its de­tails.

At the very start of our ef­forts to create a new pri­vate repa­ra­tions pro­gram, we con­sulted Ms. Lynn Shiner. Ms. Shiner is a sur­vivor of vi­o­lent crime her­self and has spent her 22year ca­reer as a vic­tim’s ad­vo­cate in Penn­syl­va­nia work­ing with and on be­half of sur­vivors of all types of abuse. Ms. Shiner was the di­rec­tor of the Penn­syl­va­nia Of­fice of Vic­tims’ Ser­vices, and she over­saw Penn­syl­va­nia’s pub­lic vic­tim com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram. Un­der her di­rec­tion, this state fund has dis­trib­uted more than $100 mil­lion to vic­tims. With Ms. Shiner’s guid­ance, we de­signed our pro­gram based on in­put from dozens of vic­tims about what they ex­pect and need from such an ef­fort. Ms. Shiner has gen­er­ously agreed to be an on­go­ing part of this pro­gram’s work. She will be the Vic­tim Sup­port Fa­cil­i­ta­tor and will be avail­able to help sur­vivors in com­ing for­ward, pre­sent­ing their claims, and find­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vices within and out­side of the Church.

This pro­gram, how­ever, is about more than com­pen­sa­tion of vic­tims. It’s also about apol­o­giz­ing to vic­tims, rec­og­niz­ing the harm the church has done, and con­tin­u­ing the crit­i­cal work to en­sure abuse is pre­vented. The pro­gram will in­clude an in­de­pen­dent re­view of our cur­rent poli­cies, in­put on our train­ing pro­grams, and rec­om­men­da­tions for steps to­ward in­creased emo­tional and spir­i­tual heal­ing in our com­mu­nity.

This rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and repa­ra­tions ef­fort needs to be, and will be, in­de­pen­dent of the church. Lead­ers in our com­mu­nity who have im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials will ad­min­is­ter it. To as­sure this au­ton­omy, an In­de­pen­dent Over­sight Com­mit­tee, chaired by for­mer U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader George Mitchell, will su­per­vise the ef­fort. Join­ing Sen. Mitchell on the com­mit­tee will be Kel­ley Hodge, for­mer In­terim District At­tor­ney for the City and County of Philadel­phia; and Lawrence F. Sten­gel (Ret.), for­mer Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Penn­syl­va­nia.

Vic­tims’ ad­vo­cates have stressed that the pro­gram must al­low sur­vivors to re­ceive re­dress quickly with­out bur­den­some ad­min­is­tra­tive or court-type pro­ce­dures. When we can­vassed the coun­try for the very best claims ad­min­is­tra­tors, it quickly be­came clear that Mr. Ken­neth R. Fein­berg and Ms. Camille S. Biros, two na­tion­ally rec­og­nized ex­perts, are ex­tra­or­di­nary at this work and have now de­vel­oped spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with mul­ti­ple dio­ce­ses. Mr. Fein­berg and Ms. Biros will ad­min­is­ter all as­pects of the claims process, un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Over­sight Com­mit­tee. These ad­min­is­tra­tors will have com­plete author­ity to de­ter­mine el­i­gi­bil­ity of in­di­vid­ual claims and the amount of repa­ra­tions for sur­vivors who come for­ward.

I need to em­pha­size again that this ef­fort is en­tirely in­de­pen­dent of the Archdiocese and is con­fi­den­tial. The pro­gram is de­signed to help sur­vivors come for­ward in an at­mos­phere where they are se­cure and re­spected, with­out the un­cer­tainty, con­flict, and stress of lit­i­ga­tion. On Nov.13, Se­na­tor Mitchell and the team in­volved in this ef­fort will hold a sep­a­rate press con­fer­ence pro­vid­ing full de­tails and an­swer­ing any ques­tions on the pro­gram. I in­vite our news me­dia and the gen­eral pub­lic to lis­ten care­fully to what they say.

I want to thank these ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­lic lead­ers for their ser­vice in this work to re­pair the dam­age of the past and ease the suf­fer­ing of sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies.

Fi­nally and most im­por­tantly: I deeply re­gret the pain that so many vic­tims carry from the ex­pe­ri­ence of sex abuse. I hope this pro­gram will bring them a mea­sure of peace.

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AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vic­tims of clergy sex­ual abuse, or their fam­ily mem­bers re­act as Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Penn­syl­va­nia Capi­tol in Har­ris­burg, Pa., Tues­day. A Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury says its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of clergy sex­ual abuse iden­ti­fied more than 1,000 child vic­tims. The grand jury re­port re­leased Tues­day says that num­ber comes from records in six Ro­man Catholic dio­ce­ses.

Rev. Charles J. Chaput

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