Catholic Archdiocese of New York Announces Compensation Program for Clergy Abuse SurvivorsOct 7, 2016
New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan has announced that the Archdiocese of New York will create a compensation program for people who were abused by Catholic clergymen in the past.
In a news release on October 6, 2016, the archdiocese said that it will take about four months for the more than 170 survivors to come forward to have their claims for compensation reviewed, NBC News reports.
The archdiocese has already begun contacting survivors who had previously told the church that clergy had abused them. Others have until January 31, 2017 to apply for compensation.
Dolan described the sex abuse by priests "nauseating" and a sin that has "gravely wounded the church." He hopes that the program will “help bring a measure of peace and healing to those who have suffered abuse by a member of the clergy of this archdiocese," he said in a statement.
Veteran mediator Kenneth Feinberg will administer the program. Feinberg previously administered the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the fund for those injured or killed in accidents caused by defective General Motors ignition switches. Feinberg, along with mediator Camille Biros, will have complete autonomy in deciding compensation for abuse survivors, according to NBC News. There will be no cap on compensation or a statue of limitations on the claims, the archdiocese said, but those who accept compensation cannot sue the church.
Some victims' advocates were critical of the program, saying it is an attempt to squelch cases before the New York legislature acts on a proposal to make it easier for victims to sue over abuse that happened years ago, NBC News reports. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a network of survivors of clergy abuse, said compensation needs to be determined by independent sources, such as judges and juries. SNAP's executive director, David Clohessy, said Dolan's announcement is also "short circuiting" legislative reform on the statue of limitations.
Also critical is Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org. Her organization collects records on abusive priests. Doyle said in an email that New York's "restrictive statute of limitations has enabled Dolan to hide the true scope of the clergy abuse crisis in the NY archdiocese," according to NBC News. She described the compensation fund as "another tactic designed to fend off disclosure."
New York state lawmakers have long debated whether to extend the statute of limitations on suing child sex abusers or create a window for past victims to file civil suits against abusers. The Catholic Church and other institutions have strongly opposed such proposals.
Under current law, victims have until they turn 23 to file lawsuits. But supporters say it can take years before victims step forward. In May, an attempt to force a vote on the measure in the state Senate failed, according to NBC News.