Six of California’s Catholic Dioceses are committing to a new program to compensate survivors of priest sex abuse.
Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego are participating. They serve some 80% of the state’s Catholic population.
Anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest as a minor, no matter when the abuse happened, can file a claim.
“What really is important is that the victims now have an opportunity to tell their story to two independent individuals,” said Camille Biros who is designing and managing the program along with Kenneth Feinberg.
Both are national mediation experts, managing the payouts to victims of the September 11th attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings among other tragedies. The duo has been working with the California bishops since November to get this program in motion.
“And have us review the circumstances and say, ‘yes, in fact we believe this happened to you. We believed you were abused as a child,'” Biros said.
Victim-survivors do not need a lawyer to participate. The program runs completely independent from the dioceses. Any records or paper trail are reviewed for each claim.
“Then we make a determination on eligibility and the amount of the offer,” Biros explained.
In October of 2016, Biros and Feinberg implemented the first program. Since then, she says over 1,200 victims in the states of New York and Pennsylvania have received more than $230,000,000. The diocese is on the hook.
“Whether they take out loans or mortgage property, I mean, that’s individual, diocese by diocese,” Biros said.
She also said that if a victim accepts compensation, they’ll have to sign that they cannot sue the dioceses or the priest.
SNAP or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement saying in part:
“We believe the best way to expose wrongdoing and enforce accountability is for crimes to be made public and for punishment and compensation to be meted out by courts, not the institutions that allowed the wrongdoing to happen in the first place.”
The process is underway to collect victims’ information here in Fresno and elsewhere.
The program is set to launch in September.