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NY archdiocese begins compensation program for priest abuse victims

NEW YORK — Victims of sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy will be paid as part of a newly created program by the Archdiocese of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan announced Thursday.

“One sin, one crime, one scandal has gravely wounded us in the Church,” Dolan said about the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

He called sex abuse by priests "nauseating."

Dolan said the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) will be financed by a long-term loan, that no fundraising money or parishioners’ donations will be utilized, and the program will be overseen by Kenneth Feinberg, a well-known mediator and attorney who administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Decisions about individual compensation will be made by an independent oversight committee, comprised of former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, and Dr. Jeanette Gueva of Columbia University, an expert in child psychiatry.

The announcement comes as advocates are pressing lawmakers to make it easier to sue and prosecute abusers.

The Archdiocese has been criticized this year for hiring lobbyists to oppose the Child Victims Act, a legislative proposal to remove statutes of limitations on child sex abuse prosecutions. The Child Victims Act failed to pass.

About 30 sex abuse survivors have settled claims with the Archdiocese in recent years. A number of those claims involved clergy abuse that happened many years ago.

About 170 complaints remain and these will be looked at first by Feinberg.

Feinberg said the administrators will make the final decision about compensation, adding the Cardinal “can’t overrule the committee on claim decisions.”

Feinberg said "phase two" of the program will begin in February 2017, when other alleged victims who have never filed claims will be permitted to come forward.

For information on how submit a claim, click here -- or call 866-913-3210.

"This is a very comprehensive program," Feinberg said.

But Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, is not impressed.

“It’s too little, too late, and designed to mollify lawmakers and others who feel justice should be dispensed by objective parties, like judges and juries,” Dorris said.

The clergy sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States in 2002, when Bernard Cardinal Law in Boston came under scrutiny for transferring priests who had multiple sex abuse complaints lodged against them. They went to new parishes and abused again.

The Boston cases drew in bishops from New York, who were working under Cardinal Law when the priests were transferred. In late 2002, Cardinal Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston and went to work in a Vatican program.

Cardinal Dolan received criticism in recent years because when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, he offered sexually abusive priests who were about to lose their positions up to $20,000 to help them transition to the secular world.
The Archbishop called it an “act of charity.”

In announcing the program Thursday, Dolan said he was moved by Pope Francis’ declaration that this was a year of mercy in the Roman Catholic Church. The pope visited New York City last year with Cardinal Dolan as his host.

The Cardinal was asked about any recent complaints of sexual abuse by priests. He told reporters most of the complaints filed concern allegations from years ago.

“In the last 15 years, any allegation is immediately turned out to police,” he said. “We learned the hard way: we don’t do this ‘in house.’”