Catholic Diocese of Richmond to Pay $6.3m to Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests, Others

By Bill Atkinson
The Progress-Index
October 15, 2020

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond said Thursday it has agreed to pay $6.3 million to more than 50 victims who claimed they were sexually abused by priests, but the head of the organization says that does not mean the church is ending its ongoing investigation.

The CDR said the money for the Independent Reconciliation Program comes from the diocese self-insurance polic, loans and gifts from other religious orders. None came from offerings, endowments or other parish-related financial sources.

The IRP started by the CDR last February organized the funding, which was administered by a private Richmond firm specializing in major claims. A CDR statement announcing the awards said the diocese had no say in how much would be awarded or who would receive money.

"Reconciliation is a defining aspect of our diocese’s bicentennial year, a year in which we recognize the establishment of our Catholic faith in Virginia and a recognition of all that is part of our history," Bishop Barry C. Knestout, head of the Richmond diocese, wrote in a letter to parishioners on the CDR website. Knestout said the bicentennial presented the diocese with "another opportunity to work for justice" for the victims of clergy abuse.

Knestout identified that opportunity as having three facets — acknowledgement of wrongdoing, reconciling with the victims, and "attempts to repair the hurt we have caused."

In the report, the program administrators reviewed 60 documented claims. An additional eight were either withdrawn, incomplete or declared ineligible.

Of that 60, nine were denied. The remaining 51 were accepted.

The Catholic church has come under fire in recent years for its initial refusal to believe members who said they were molested, mostly as young people, by priests and other church leaders. Last year, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church reported assault claims against clerics had more than doubled over a specific 12-month reporting period.

In February 2019, the diocese released the names of 42 former priests it found had credible claims against them by parishioners.

In the letter, Knestout reiterated that the release of the claims funding does not mean that the CDR is closing the book on cases.

"The completion of this program is by no means the end of our efforts to provide for our diocese’s victim survivors. Our outreach is ongoing," he wrote. "We must, and we will, continue to meet victim survivors with support and compassion motivated by our shared love of Jesus Christ."

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond includes St, Joseph in Petersburg, St. John in Dinwiddie, St, James in Hopewell, St. Ann just outside of Colonial Heights and Church of the Sacred Heart Parish in Prince George; and St. Joseph School in downtown Petersburg.

You can reach Bill Atkinson at Follow him at @BAtkinson_PI. Follow The Progress-Index on Twitter at @ProgressIndex.

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