Arch­dio­cese rolls out plans to com­pen­sate abuse vic­tims

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - NEWS - By Kath­leen Carey [email protected]­tu­ry­

The Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia Nov. 13 rolled out the de­tails on their plan to set up a com­pen­sa­tion fund for vic­tims of sex­ual abuse — send­ing let­ters to more than 300 cred­i­ble vic­tims who re­ported be­ing abused.

The in­de­pen­dent pro­gram is es­tab­lished by the arch­dio­cese to fi­nan­cially com­pen­sate vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse at the hands of arch­dioce­san clergy, re­gard­less of when it hap­pened.

Vic­tims have un­til Sept. 30, 2019, to file a claim at Philadel­phi­aArch­dio­ce­ through the In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions Pro­gram. If it is a new claim and not pre­vi­ously re­ported to the arch­dio­cese, claimants have un­til July 31, 2019, to file.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors stress the pro­gram is purely vol­un­tary and in­de­pen­dent and there are no caps on fi­nan­cial re­wards. How­ever, to re­ceive the fi­nal fi­nan­cial re­ward, a vic­tim must waive their rights to pur­sue any le­gal ac­tion against the church in the fu­ture.

“This pro­gram isn’t about bring­ing clo­sure or about mak­ing vic­tims whole,” Vic­tim Sup­port Fa­cil­i­ta­tor Lynn Shiner said. “Sadly, that will never hap­pen. Nor is it about restor­ing their faith in the Catholic church. It’s about ac­knowl­edg­ing the pain, the un­just harm and the arch­dio­cese’s fail­ure to pre­vent that harm.”

The es­tab­lish­ment of this spe­cial com­pen­sa­tion panel comes on the heels of last sum­mer’s damn­ing state grand jury re­port that de­tailed more than 300 priests who abused more than 1,000 chil­dren for decades in six dio­ce­ses out­side of Philadel­phia. The grand jury rec­om­mended leg­is­la­tors open a two-year win­dow for vic­tims of decades-old abuse to file civil suits. The move, which passed the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives but stalled in the state Se­nate, was op­posed by the church. In re­sponse the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia in­stead an­nounced last week it had cre­ated the IRRP. Fif­teen years ago, the Philadel­phia arch­dio­cese cre­ated its Of­fice for Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion and has since spent more than $18 mil­lion to pro­vide re­sources and care to vic­tims iden­ti­fied here.

In 2005 and in 2011, the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia was the sub­ject of sim­i­lar grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions that found sim­i­lar pat­terns of child­hood sex­ual abuse. In both the Philadel­phia and the more re­cent grand jury re­port cov­er­ing six other Penn­syl­va­nia dio­ce­ses, the find­ings were sim­i­lar. Not only were priests iden­ti­fied as sex­ual preda­tors, but in both in­stances the grand jury de­ter­mined church lead­ers ac­tively cov­ered up the abuse.

On Nov. 13, pack­age of in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, were sent to 342 iden­ti­fied vic­tims from the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia, ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram ad­min­is­tra­tors.

Vic­tims are en­cour­aged to sub­mit a claim to the IRRP through the ap­pli­ca­tions pro­vided on the web­site. If they so choose, the Vic­tim Sup­port Fa­cil­i­ta­tor, Lynn Shiner, will be avail­able to help them sub­mit their claims. How­ever, that is op­tional.

Shiner served for four years as di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Vic­tims’ Ser­vices with the Penn­syl­va­nia Com­mis­sion on Crime and Delin­quency, where she over­saw the dis­tri­bu­tion of more than $100 mil­lion to vic­tims of crime through­out the state. She also comes from a back­ground of tragedy as a rape and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tim whose chil­dren, Jen, 10, and Dave, 8, were mur­dered by their fa­ther on Christ­mas Day in 1994.

Mem­bers of an In­de­pen­dent Over­sight Com­mit­tee that over­sees the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the IRRP also were in­tro­duced at the press con­fer­ence. The panel con­sists of for­mer U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Ge­orge J. Mitchell, who chaired peace ne­go­ti­a­tions in North­ern Ire­land that led to the end of con­flict there; for­mer Chief Judge of the U.S. Eastern Dis­trict Court Lawrence F. Sten­gel; and for­mer Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kel­ley Hodge, who now works at the law firm of El­liott Green­leaf, P.C.

One of the part­ners of El­liott Green­leaf, state Sen. Ste­wart J. Green­leaf, R-12, of Mont­gomery County, has been a staunch op­po­nent of re­form to civil statute of lim­i­ta­tions for vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse.

Those in­volved in the process, in­clud­ing Kenneth R. Feinberg, who was Spe­cial Mas­ter of the Septem­ber 11 Vic­tim Com­pen­sa­tion Fund, em­pha­sized the neu­tral­ity of the pro­gram and its par­tic­i­pants.

Feinberg said it is com­pletely vol­un­tary for vic­tims to par­tic­i­pate in the IRRP or to ac­cept a re­ward and added that not all vic­tims want to pur­sue chang­ing the law.

Mitchell said the IRRP process is sep­a­rate from the Leg­is­la­ture and that the arch­dio­cese has no con­trol over their work.

Mitchell added, “We feel this rep­re­sents an ef­fort by the arch­dio­cese and an op­por­tu­nity for po­ten­tial claimants to help them ame­lio­rate, not to erase, the prob­lems they’ve had in the past.”

Feinberg will work with Camille S. Biros as the two ad­min­is­tra­tors who de­ter­mine amounts of re­wards for cred­i­ble claims. Re­wards will be based on a myr­iad of fac­tors in­clud­ing the amount of doc­u­men­ta­tion avail­able, the age of the vic­tim when the abuse oc­curred, the type of abuse, the fre­quency and whether drugs or al­co­hol were in­volved.

Both Feinberg and Biros served on the Septem­ber 11 Vic­tim Com­pen­sa­tion Fund as well as other com­pen­satory pro­grams. For the past two years, they have worked as the fund ad­min­is­tra­tors for the New York Arch­dio­cese In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Com­pen­sa­tion Pro­gram and the Brook­lyn Dio­cese and Rockville Cen­tre Dio­cese In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Com­pen­sa­tion Pro­grams.

They will review the filed claims and de­ter­mine what amount to award, if the case is deemed cred­i­ble. If claimants want to meet ei­ther of them on the record or off, Feinberg said they would make them­selves avail­able by tele­phone or in per­son, what­ever the claimant chooses.

Once a re­ward is es­tab­lished, a vic­tim can ei­ther ac­cept it or not. If they do, they waive their rights to any fur­ther civil ac­tion against the arch­dio­cese. Feinberg said the re­ward amount is bind­ing to the arch­dio­cese and the In­de­pen­dent Over­sight Com­mit­tee. There is no ap­peal process.

“No amount of money is go­ing to pro­vide clo­sure to that vic­tim or sat­isfy the vic­tim,” Feinberg said. “It is a small step in help­ing that vic­tim se­cure some de­gree of fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.”

He said he has found that val­i­da­tion is help­ful to the vic­tims.

“You have a right to rec­og­nize that your cred­i­ble claim has been ac­cepted,” he said. “That de­gree of val­i­da­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant we’ve learned ... they’ve lived their whole lives in the shadow of what was done.”

In the an­nounce­ment, Mitchell said it was the most com­pre­hen­sive to date “to en­able all vic­tims of sex­ual abuse to ob­tain fi­nan­cial and ther­a­peu­tic sup­port through a dig­ni­fied, non-ad­ver­sar­ial process.”

“The pro­gram is de­signed to mit­i­gate the harm while un­der­stand­ing that no rem­edy could fully rec­og­nize what these vic­tims en­dured re­gard­less of when the harm oc­curred,” he said. “(My) hope … is that ev­ery­one who suf­fered abuse at the hands of the Philadel­phia arch­dio­cese clergy will avail them­selves of this pro­gram. The wrongs that you en­dured will not be erased by this pro­gram but they can be ame­lio­rated.”

••• Vic­tims have un­til Sept. 30, 2019, to file a claim to be con­sid­ered for com­pen­sa­tion through the In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions Pro­gram for the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia. If the abuse claim has not been pre­vi­ously re­ported, vic­tims have un­til July 31, 2019, to file. If the vic­tim is dead, a fam­ily mem­ber or le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive may file on their be­half.

Visit Philadel­phi­aArch­dio­ce­ for more in­for­ma­tion.


Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg lis­ten to the pre­sen­ta­tion as the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia rolled out the de­tails of their plan to com­pen­sate vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse. Both will serve on the In­de­pen­dent Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Repa­ra­tions Pro­gram.

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