When Pope Francis was in New York a year ago, he spoke eloquently of mercy, compassion, reconciliation, and invited all of us to be ambassadors of those touching virtues. Our Holy Father has also christened 2016 a Year of Mercy, and encouraged us bishops to reach out in a new, daring way to people who are hurting or feel cut off from the Church.
Inspired by his example, I decided, after a lot of consultation, to take the grace and challenge of this moment and establish an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program to, please God, promote healing for one group of members in the Church’s family who continue to suffer: the victim-survivors of abuse by clergy.
This one sin, one crime, one scandal has gravely wounded us in the Church. I continue to hear it wherever I go.
It is true that over the last two decades, the Catholic Church in the United States has made documented progress in dealing with this nauseating crime of sexual abuse, especially since the implementation of the landmark Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People nearly 15 years ago: zero tolerance for guilty clergy with removal from all ministry; full cooperation with law enforcement; public announcement of offenders; comprehensive child safety education, with ongoing monitoring of compliance of safe environment; background checks . . . on and on, leading Dr. Paul McHugh, a recognized expert at Johns Hopkins University in the abuse of children, to comment that the Church is today a leader and model in responding to a scourge that afflicts all our society and culture: the abuse of minors.
Sex abuse victims need truth and not cash from archdiocese
We have also engaged in pastoral and practical outreach to the victims.
Yet the wounds of many continue to fester, and they understandably tell us they await further compassion.
That’s my motive, the grace and challenge of this Year of Mercy, in taking a next step, opening this Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program to help, I hope, bring some added sense of resolution to the deep hurt of our victims. The victim-survivors tell us that, while it’s not about money, a tangible sign of the Church’s outreach and sense of reparation would indeed be helpful.
We have already begun to reach out to those who told us years ago that they suffered abuse, to invite them to participate in this program. As the program continues, though, anyone can come forward to register and have their claim reviewed.
Archdiocese’s new program is better option for some abuse victims
I have asked Kenneth Feinberg, internationally acclaimed for administering fair and successful compensation programs — including the 9/11 Victims Fund, and the recent Penn State settlement — and his colleague Camille Biros to be the program administrators.
This archdiocese will respect and honor all decisions they arrive at regarding who is eligible for compensation and the amount of compensation they will receive.
I am also pleased to have former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska and Dr. Jeanette Cueva, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and an expert in child psychiatry, to serve as an independent oversight committee. They have already critiqued and approved the protocols which will guide Feinberg, and they will monitor the progress of the IRCP to make sure it is working as intended.
The archdiocese will have to cover the cost as an act of reparation. Since we cannot and do not want to use money given by our generous donors for parishes, schools, charities and works of healing, nor touch the gifts to the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal, the Renew and Rebuild Capital Campaign, or the Cathedral Repair, we’ll have to do like any family does at a critical time, and borrow the money.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan unveils new program for sex abuse victims
The cancer of abuse has surfaced in every segment of society — public schools, families, sports teams, youth groups, government programs for youth, every religion and Church. I am thankful that, for the Church, it seems that such horrors are now mostly confined to the past. That does not mean our work is over. Prevention, education, and, yes, reconciliation with those who have been hurt is anything but past.
I can only hope our efforts announced Thursday will help the victims, and the Church, recover.
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