N.J. Catholic diocese’s $87.5M settlement with sexual assault victims OKed by judge

nj.com [New Jersey]

March 15, 2024

By Brianna Kudisch, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

A federal bankruptcy judge approved a plan Thursday that clears the way for the Catholic Diocese of Camden to finalize agreements to pay child sexual abuse survivors.

The deal comes nearly two years after the diocese agreed to pay $87.5 million in settlements to people who were abused by clergy members as children.

Judge Jerrold Poslusny signed off on the plan despite objections from several of the diocese’s insurance companies, attorneys for the survivors said in a news release.

“This moment comes after decades of survivors suffering, and it is their courage and their voice that is making the Diocese accountable and safer for kids,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing the victims.

“It is the survivors deserving of credit, who courageously stand in Camden and across this nation,” he said. “From their courage and collective action, brings about real reckoning.”

In a letter addressed to the church community Thursday, Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan confirmed the finalization of the settlements by the court and apologized to victims.

“This decision opens a new chapter in the Diocese of Camden, allowing us to finally offer substantial reparations to survivors harmed by sinful priests dating back more than six decades,” he said in the letter.

The plan received the support of 99% of the survivors who voted in the bankruptcy case, the attorneys said. Poslusny required modifications to the plan over the last few months before giving his approval.

The judge’s confirmation continues of a long process for victims of sexual abuse in the diocese. In April 2022, the bishop announced $87.5 million in settlement with more than 300 childhood victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

Attorneys who represented the victims called the settlement one of the largest cash payments of its kind.

The settlement was negotiated amid an ongoing bankruptcy case brought by the diocese in 2020, as it struggled with mounting debt after a flood of abuse victims sought recompense under the New Jersey Independent Victims Compensation Program.

The victims, all now adults, filed claims as part of the federal bankruptcy proceedings.

The Camden Diocese oversees nearly half a million Catholics in 62 parishes in the Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

The bishop also expressed appreciation for the survivors who worked to bring the process to a conclusion. The settlement will allow the diocese to now meet its obligations to the survivors of clerical abuse, he said.

“Once again, I express my sincere apologies and prayers to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese,” Sullivan said. “I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again.”

Staff writer Ted Sherman contributed to this report.