The Archdiocese of New York may have instituted the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program compensation for the victims of child abuse within the church in a bid to keep payments beyond state control a report has found.
The Program, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan said, was hoped would ‘promote healing’ and ‘bring closure’ to victims.
“It is only appropriate that we take this opportunity to follow Pope Francis and once again ask forgiveness for whatever mistakes may have been made in the past by those representing the Church, even by us bishops,” Dolan said, “and continue to seek reconciliation with those who have been harmed and feel alienated from the Church.”
However, in private comments, the lawyer assigned to manage the program, Kenneth Feinberg, had it somewhat differently. He told lawyers representing Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester, three New York Dioceses, that ‘the Cardinal feels that it is providing his lawyers in Albany with additional persuasive powers not to reopen the statute,” Feinberg said of the program. “We are already doing this, why bother? Don’t reopen the statute. We are taking care of our own problem. I think that is guiding Cardinal Dolan as well.”
The Child Victims Act under debate in Albany at the time, which considered extending the statute of limitations on civil claims for damages, risked the bankruptcy of many of the state’s dioceses.
“The whole point is to get the release,” Feinberg said, “so we offer $10,000. In Buffalo, maybe $5,000,” Feinberg said. “Get the release. We want to be able to show Albany that people are accepting this money and signing releases. You don’t need to change the statute.”
“One very important principle that is guiding that various Dioceses in Manhattan and Long Island is the fear that if the statute is reopened, and there are people who did not participate earlier and sign a release in this program, some of the allegations may resolve on the courthouse steps with a $5,000,000 demand or a $2,000,000 demand,” Feinberg said. “Right now, we have not paid any claim, however horrific, at more than $500,000.”
“The statements, if true, place Cardinal Dolan in a compromising light and are disrespectful to victims or survivors of clergy sexual abuse everywhere”, Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer who represented the victims of the Geoghan case in Boston, told ABC News.
On the conference call, Feinberg revealed that the “movement afoot in Albany” was why Dolan “decided to bite the bullet and create a program”, directly contradicting public statements made by the Cardinal previously.
Church opposition to the Child Victims Act, signed into law in February 2019, was eventually dropped after New York lawmakers included victims of abuse by members of public institutions. The one-year extension period of the statute of limitations was increased to conclude in August 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.