Opinion: Catholic Church’s Compensation Fund Will Shortchange Abuse Victims

The Times of San Diego

Sept. 24, 2019

By Irwin Zalkin

This fund was set up by six of the largest dioceses in California in anticipation of new legislation, Assembly Bill 218, which is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for signature. AB 218, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature, will open a three-year window for new civil claims that had been barred by California’s restrictive statue of limitations laws. This legislation would allow potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of clergy abuse victims to sue the Catholic dioceses of California for allowing the abuse to happen and for covering up decades of clergy abuse.

The last time such a window of opportunity was allowed in California was in 2003, when more than 1,000 victims filed lawsuits with an average settlement of $1.3 million. Offering to pay victims pennies on the dollar compared to what they may receive under the civil justice system is nothing less than a scam to save the dioceses and their insurers millions of dollars.

The church is calling this program the “Independent Compensation Fund.” There is nothing independent about this fund. The dioceses are paying the fund administrators who will be deciding what a victim gets based on a schedule. These private settlements will do nothing to expose the clergy involved in the abuse and the cover-up by the dioceses. No documents will be released as part of a victim’s settlement with the fund.

Survivor organizations like SNAP, the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, strongly supported AB 218 and have cautioned victims not to rush toward this option as a settlement for their claims. SNAP has issued a statement highlighting the fact that the California’s dioceses compensation programs began just six days after the passage of the AB 218.

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