$26M for Abuse Victims Proposed by Diocese of Camden

Patch [New York City NY]

October 13, 2021

By Kimberlee Bongard and Anthony Bellano

The Diocese of Camden serves parishioners in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

The Diocese of Camden has submitted a plan of reorganization that offers $26 million to survivors of child sex abuse within the diocese, officials announced.

That number could increase to $40 million if survivors accept tax-free payments over seven years, the Diocese of Camden said in a statement posted on its website. It comes about a year after the Diocese filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Diocese of Camden serves parishioners in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.

The proposal would see survivors paid as soon as possible. The Diocese hopes that can be later this year.

Attorneys representing the victims told the Courier Post they will fight the proposal, saying the sides are nowhere near agreeing on financial issues and other issues.

“Unfortunately, despite hundreds of hours of mediation between the Diocese and the Claimants Committee, no reasonable committee proposals have been offered to finalize these matters,” the Diocese said in its statement. “The point has been reached where survivors should have the choice to accept compensation now.”

The plan covers about 300 child sex abuse survivors that filed claims as of June 30.

“Most claims date back decades,” the Diocese said. “Considering the age of the victims involved and the willingness of all parties to bring these claims to a conclusion, providing monies to survivors now is necessary and appropriate.”

The Diocese hopes for quick approval from the federal bankruptcy judge, as the Diocese says it has paid out $7 million in legal fees over the last year. They add this is money no longer available to the victims.

They also said the Diocese’s funds are being depleted at a time when it is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in layoffs among other things.

It has already paid $11 million to victims from the mid-1990s to the late 2010s, and $8 million to survivors through the Diocese of Camden’s participation in New Jersey’s Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP), established in 2019.

The IVCP was created by the state’s five dioceses, and settled 71 claims filed against the Diocese of Camden in full. Claims related to the Camden Diocese averaged approximately $112,500.

“However, despite negative financial effects of the pandemic, the Diocese remains committed to providing needed services to the Catholic faithful, via its ministries, schools, and social service ministries and all persons in southern New Jersey,” the Diocese said. “The Diocese’s commitment to survivors of priest abuse is equally as strong. With the implementation of the Diocese’s plan of reorganization, survivors will have another element towards closure.”

They added that they have historically made every effort to support victims of sex abuse in the Diocese.

“Bishop Dennis Sullivan has continually offered to meet with any survivor and implemented many safeguards so that the horrific past conduct never occurs again,” the Diocese said. “It is important to note that the last reported incident of priest abuse of a minor occurred in the mid-1990s.”

A previous plan that would have provided $10 million to survivors was rejected earlier this year, according to the Courier Post.