YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Thursday that the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of New York has created an independently-mediated
compensation program for people who were sexually abused by church
leaders, likely the first of its kind in the nation.
survivors who are willing to waive the right to sue could in
exchange receive financial compensation at an amount set by an
independent mediator, a plan that mirrors compensation funds used in the
wake of national tragedies and major scandals. One of the mediators the
archdiocese has hired, Kenneth Feinberg, also set compensation amounts
for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Orlando nightclub
shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP oil spill.
critics argued that the new plan, which would require victims who have
already lodged abuse complaints with the church to request compensation
by the end of January, suggests the archdiocese wants to quietly settle
claims before the New York legislature changes the law on how much time
victims have to sue in court — possibly exposing the archdiocese to many
York has a statute of limitations that is one of the most restrictive
in the country: Victims have until they turn 23 to file lawsuits.
Advocates for sexual abuse victims have been fighting for a lengthier
statute of limitations.
“It’s a good addition, but it can’t be a
substitution for statute of limitations reform,” said Marci Hamilton, an
expert who has represented hundreds of sexual-abuse survivors. The
archdiocese’s plan should be reserved for victims who do not want to go
to court, said Hamilton, who is chief executive and academic director
for CHILD USA and a distinguished scholar at University of Pennsylvania.
a news conference, Dolan called sexual abuse a “nauseating crime” that
has “gravely wounded us in the church.” He said the church has made
strides on the issue, and he said Pope Francis’s “year of mercy” was the
motivation for the new compensation program. The amount of money that
victims will receive has not been determined, he said.
Barrett Doyle, co-director of a group that advocates for church
transparency called BishopAccountability.org, said in an email
that Dolan’s plan “isn’t mercy, it’s strategy.”
More than 1,000
victims have received compensation from the Boston archdiocese, 570 in
Milwaukee, 508 in Los Angeles and 169 in Portland, according to Doyle.
If the proposed Child Victims Act is passed, the identities of hundreds
of abusive priests, brothers and nuns will be made public,
probably bringing forth many more victims, Doyle said. In the New York
archdiocese, 77 clerics have been accused publicly, according to the
“Ultimately, this move is aimed at keeping the public in
the dark about the true scope of the Catholic abuse crisis in New York,”
The archdiocese is currently aware of 170 survivors,
but anyone can come forward to seek compensation, according to Joseph
Zwilling, spokesman for the archdiocese.
Lawmakers in Albany have
debated changes to the statute of limitations, and such proposals have
faced opposition from Catholic Church leaders. One proposal would
eliminate the statute of limitations for several child sexual abuse
crimes going forward and would give past victims one year to file civil
To cover the cost of compensating victims, the archdiocese said it will take out a long-term loan.
This article has been updated.
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