More than 60 victims have applied to a program founded by Timothy Cardinal Dolan to compensate people sexually abused as children by clergy in the New York Archdiocese.
With still more time to apply, 65 people have provided accounts of abuse by priests when they were minors.
Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, has thus far offered settlement amounts to 15 victims.
Three of them have accepted compensation from the archdiocese while 12 have yet to respond to the offers. The remaining cases are still under review, Feinberg said.
Specific settlement figures were not available.
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“We are going to try and be as generous as we can,” Feinberg said.
Advocates with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said they’ve been contacted by people struggling with whether to participate in the program.
“It’s not simple. Some of them desperately need therapy, treatment for drugs and alcohol,” said Barbara Dorris, the group’s outreach director.
The program is currently in its first phase, which has a Jan. 31 deadline. The 150 total victims in phase one made documented complaints of sex abuse by priests in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and suburban counties north of the city. The claimants are between roughly 30 and 60 years old and live all over the country, Feinberg said.
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“I think almost all of these people warrant a payout,” Feinberg said.
The clerics accused of abuse have been removed, he said.
Once victims opt into the program, Feinberg examines each case and gathers additional evidence like medical and psychiatric reports. He and his colleague Camille Biros assign a monetary value to the abuse — without input from the archdiocese or Dolan — and make an offer. If the abuse survivor chooses to accept, he waives his right to sue for damages in court.
Currently, New York’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse bars them from suing.
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SNAP Director David Clohessy said this year’s failed, all-out effort in Albany to reform the statute of limitations made the victims’ decision regarding the program more difficult because it raised hopes their right to sue will be restored. Victims’ responses to the program have run the gamut from gratitude to deep mistrust, Feinberg said.
The second phase begins Feb. 1, focusing on individuals who lodge a new complaint with the archdiocese. So far, 50 people have signed up for that phase.
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling deferred to Feinberg.
“Our trust in them remains very high that this is going to be a successful program,” he said.
Dolan said the church will take out a long-term loan to cover the cost of the settlements, avoiding the use of donations from parishioners.Send a Letter to the Editor