Survivors Must Surrender Rights in NY Archdiocese Clergy Sexual Abuse Program

Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently announced that the Archdiocese of New York is creating a compensation program for individuals who were allegedly abused by Catholic clergy. Under the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) victims must relinquish their rights to sue if they accept compensation in this program.

Cardinal Dolan called sex abuse by priests “nauseating”; stated that the abuse is a sin that has “gravely wounded the church”; and added 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.” Many advocates have expressed concern that the program strips victims of their legal rights.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is among those that are concerned that sexual abuse survivors will not have the opportunity to receive their day IRCP is an attempt, according to David Clohessy, the executive director of the group, to “squash cases quickly, before New York’s legislature acts on a proposal to make it easier for victims to sue over abuse that happened years ago,” reported NBC News.

A key element of the program-the primary element that survivor advocates strongly oppose-is that, while there is no cap on compensation or statute of limitation on claims, those survivors who agree to receive compensation under the program will not be permitted to file a lawsuit against the church once they sign-off on the IRCP.

Program protocols indicate that 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.

BishopAccountability.org-another advocacy group also weighed in. This group collects records on abusive priests and its co-director, 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.”

Phase I of the IRCP is underway and is meant to allow about four months for the more than 170 survivors involved in the New York diocese scandal to come forward for claim and compensation review, according to NBCNews. The archdiocese indicated that it has begun contacting survivors who have advised the church about alleged sexual abuse by clergy. The time frame for others to come forward to apply for compensation under the program is January 31, 2017, NBCNews wrote.

Administration of the program will be handled by Kenneth Feinberg who served as a mediator of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Fellow mediator Camille Biros and Feinberg will have full autonomy in compensation determination, the archdiocese indicated, NBC News reports. A special oversight committee will be put in place to review the program.

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