Diocese Announces Mediation Program
Albany's Roman Catholic Diocese Opens Storefront Location in Troy to Serve Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
September 23, 2004
ALBANY -- Retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine announced today an assistance program for victims of clergy sex abuse aimed at mediating issues with the church, rather than litigating them.Levine worked for 10 months on the program that is funded with $5 million from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. In addition, Mary Jo White, the former federal prosecutor who recently cleared Bishop Howard Hubbard of sexual misconduct allegations, donated $225,000, carrying out her pledge to directly assist victims with a portion of her fee.
Levine said the focus of the program is on healing and reconciliation, and cash payouts will not be the primary focus.
The Independent Mediation Assistance Program will operate out of a storefront at 255 River St. in Troy. It will be facilitated by the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, 12 mediators and an independent investigator. Levine, who formulated the program pro bono, will now be paid in his role as system adminstrator.
"Mediation is a wonderful process for any dispute," Levine said. "The reality is, most of these claims are time-barred so the justice system is not likely to be available for most victims. This will allow victims to `map' out their own destiny."
However, clergy sex abuse victim Edmund Zampier said money is what is really needed, and he noted that he and many other victims are already involved in intensive counseling.
"Nobody can return my innocence," Zampier said. "But someone can make an assessment of the damages."
Eligible participants include those for whom the statute of limitations has expired, people who choose not to sue and victims who have pending complaints before the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.
Cases not eligible for the program include complaints that the diocese has already found no reasonable grounds to believe, unless new evidence is discovered. In addition, the program would not cover claims that have already been settled by the diocese.
Applicants will have 120 days to apply to the program, beginning 30 days after its start today.
Attorney John Aretakis questioned the stringent timeline. He said victims of clergy sex abuse come forward only in their own time frame.
"That's like saying to a grieving widow, you have until Friday to stop crying," he said.
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