Clergy Abuse Victims Lawsuits
Allegations of sexual abuse in houses of worship throughout the United States have become an increasingly disturbing occurrence. With the news of more abuse by religious leaders hitting the news, more victims are finding the support and understanding they need to come forward with their stories of abuse.
Our legal team understands the pain and sensitivity of these issues and we pledge to assist you with an atmosphere that will make you feel comfortable as we explore your legal options, including the compensation you deserve and to punish those who are guilty of wrongdoing.
A prior sexual abuse case in Boston revealed that the Catholic Church went to great lengths to protect a priest who was repeatedly accused of molesting children over a period of 30 years. The list of Roman Catholic officials who apparently remained silent despite evidence that a Boston-area priest was molesting boys has grown to include a cardinal, five bishops, and several parish clergy, according to legal proceedings and public statements. This is often the case as other religious officials have swept these allegations of abuse under the carpet for years.
Child Abuse Survivor Statue of Limitations
Extending the statute of limitations on the time in which prior victims may file civil lawsuits against their abusers has been long debated by New York State lawmakers. Meanwhile, these proposals have faced strong opposition from various institutions, including the Catholic Church.
One of the key proposals in the Legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations for a number of child sexual abuse crimes going forward and would also create a one-year window that would enable past victims to file civil lawsuits. Today, victims of sexual abuse only have until they are 23 years of age to file lawsuits; however, advocates point out that it may take years before victims report these crimes. Sadly, in May 2016, an attempt by supporters to force a vote in the state senate failed.
New York Archdiocese Plans to Compensate Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse, but with a Key Stipulation
On October 6, 2016, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York announced that he is creating a compensation program for individuals who were abused by Catholic clergymen in the past, according to NBCNews.
In its release, the archdiocese indicated that it will take approximately four months for the over 170 clergy sexual abuse survivors to come forward so that their compensations claims may be reviewed. The archdiocese indicated that it has begun reaching out to survivors who had advised the church that they had been abused by clergy. Other survivors have until January 31, 2017 to apply for compensation under Phase I of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP).
Dolan described sex abuse by priests as "nauseating," adding that the abuse is a sin that has "gravely wounded the church." He as noted that, "The program we are establishing today will, please God, help bring a measure of peace and healing to those who have suffered abuse by a member of the clergy of this archdiocese."
Although there will be no cap on compensation or the statute of limitation on claims, those who agree to receive compensation under this program will be unable to file a lawsuit against the church once they sign-off on the IRCP, a caveat that has angered a number of advocacy groups, according to NBCNews. Advocates believe that the archdiocese may be looking to quash potential cases before the New York legislature acts on a proposal that would make it easier for victims to sue over prior abuse. According to IRCP protocols, participation in the program, "is completely voluntary and does not affect any rights the claimant may have unless and until the claimant accepts the compensation amount and signs a release after required consultation with a lawyer," according to Catholic New York.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests—an independent network of clergy abuse survivors—stated in a release that compensation must be determined by independent sources, such as judges and juries. The group's executive director, David Clohessy, said that Dolan's announcement is "short circuiting" legislative reform concerning the statue of limitations. "We are not pleased with announcement," Clohessy, added, reported NBCNews.
Co-director of BishopAccountability.org—an advocacy group that collects records on abusive priests—Anne Barrett Doyle, wrote 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." She added that, "His proposed victims' compensation fund is another tactic designed to fend off disclosure."
The church's program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg was a mediator of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and also following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. According to the archdiocese, Feinberg and Camille Biros will co-mediate and maintain complete autonomy in the way in which they decide compensation for abuse survivors, NBCNews wrote.
The archdiocese also announced that a special oversight committee will be created to review the program and will include former New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Ray Kelly, U.S. District Judge Loretta Presk, and Columbia University psychiatry professor Dr. Jeanette Cueva. The fund is being paid via a long-term loan, according to NBCNews.