Compensation Process Opens for Clergy Sex-abuse Victims

By John Wilkens
September 18, 2019

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy greeted people at the University of San Diego during an August meeting that called for greater vigilance in combating the sexual abuse of children.(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Childhood victims of clergy sex-abuse in San Diego and five other Roman Catholic dioceses in California can file for compensation under a program that started accepting claims this week.

The Independent Compensation Program, announced in May, is being run by lawyers Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two experienced adjudicators who handled the 9/11 victims fund, among others. They are also administering claims programs for abuse victims in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.

Officials said the church will have no control over who receives compensation, or how much.

“No amount of money will provide closure to victims,” Feinberg said in a statement. “But the program is a small step in helping victims secure some degree of financial security.”

An oversight committee that includes former California Gov. Gray Davis, former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and former U.S. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet will issue periodic reports and monitor the process to ensure it remains free of church influence, officials said.

Open to any victim who has not already been compensated, the program is voluntary and confidential. There is no statute of limitations on when the abuse occurred. Anyone who accepts a settlement will forfeit the right to sue the church.

Information about the program is availableat Claims must be postmarked by March 31.

In a statement issued Monday as the program began accepting claims, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said, “This is a necessary step to help victim-survivors receive the acknowledgment they deserve and the material help they need. It also continues our work to confront the grievous and unconscionable sins committed by individual priests and the failure of the Church hierarchy to protect young people from harm.”

But when the program was announced four months ago, several attorneys representing abuse victims raised concerns about accountability and transparency. “The church wants to keep victims isolated while shelling out some peanuts,” said Anthony DeMarco, a Pasadena lawyer.

The program covers the dioceses of San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento, and Fresno, which together serve about 80 percent of California’s Catholic population. Settlement money will come from the dioceses and their insurance, officials said.








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