Statement from the Catholic Coalition of Conscience on the
Archdiocese of NY Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program
The Catholic Coalition of Conscience and its participating groups welcome the announcement by the Archdiocese of New York of the formation of an “Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program” designed to help victim-survivors of clerical sexual abuse. Although such an initiative has been delayed for too long, as acknowledged by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the effective implementation of this program could bring much needed aid to victim-survivors who have been denied justice by New York State’s Statute of Limitations (SOL) restrictions governing sexual abuse of children.
Mr. Kenneth R. Feinberg, the independent mediator charged with reviewing cases and making monetary awards, said in the press conference announcing the program that it would be a “model.” Having worked for SOL reform over several years in New York State in the face of strenuous opposition from the Catholic Church, the Catholic Coalition of Conscience respectfully asserts that this program will only be a “model” if it reflects five key principles.
Transparency: The workings of the program are governed by “protocols” which were reviewed and approved by members of its Independent Oversight Committee: former NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Judge Loretta A. Preska and Dr. Jeanette Cueva, M.D. Presumably these protocols cover such issues as mandatory non-disclosure agreements. These protocols must be disclosed to the public, so that victim-survivors contemplating participation in the program can understand the ground rules under which it will operate.
Inclusion: If the aim of the program is to promote reconciliation, why have no members of the victim-survivor community been invited to join the Oversight Committee to help guide and shape the operation of the program? The commission on sexual abuse formed by Pope Francis includes victims of abuse; should not this archdiocesan program be at least as inclusive?
Generosity: The awards made by the program must be made public, so that the Catholic community at large can evaluate the fairness of the awards in light of similar settlements made by other dioceses and entities of the Catholic Church. The awards must be generous, given the many years that victim-survivors have had to wait before receiving any meaningful response from the Catholic Church. The program should also allow victim-survivors more than two months (to the end of January 2017, according to published reports) to decide whether or not to participate in the first phase of the program. Given Cardinal Dolan’s own admission that such a program should have been implemented long before now, a two-month deadline is demeaning to victim-survivors who face the complex and potentially irreversible decision on whether or not to participate.
Accountability: The names of any sex abusers and enablers who are identified as part of the program should be published. If accusations against these accusers are credible enough to merit monetary awards, the Catholic community of New York and the general public need to know the names of the abusers. Further, the Archdiocese of New York should renounce all opposition to SOL reform legislation in the State of New York. The new archdiocesan program in no way negates the need for comprehensive SOL reform, which is urgently needed so that all children can be better protected from sexual abuse, and all victims denied access to the courts by archaic SOL limits can have the opportunity to seek redress.
Reconciliation: The goal of the program must be to achieve true Christian reconciliation between victim-survivors and the Catholic faithful. This demands more than monetary awards. Victim-survivors have repeatedly said that what they want most is to be heard and not dismissed or feel violated anew by aggressive court proceedings. Church leaders and members must meet with victim-survivors who are willing to re-engage with the faith community, and listen to their stories with compassion and understanding. The damage done by sexual abuse lasts a lifetime; programmatic support for victim-survivors should be strong and ongoing, not a one-time event. Beyond monetary awards, the Catholic Church must humbly ask forgiveness in this year of mercy from victim-survivors and their families, including those who lost a loved one to suicide.
The Catholic Coalition of Conscience calls on the Archdiocese of New York and Mr. Feinberg to revise the operation and procedures of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program immediately in accord with these principles, so that victim-survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church receive the full measure of justice they deserve.
October 20, 2016
Call to Action Metro New York
Call to Action Upstate New York
Voice of the Faithful New York
Media Contact: Francis X. Piderit, Voice of the Faithful New York Leadership Team, 917-916-7575 (Cell Phone), PideritVOTF@piderit.com