A decade and a half after the scandal first broke in Boston, opening the floodgates for victims everywhere to come forward, the Syracuse Diocese announces, on Ash Wednesday, the establishment of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.
"There are 76 individuals who will recieve a letter, if they have not already done so, inviting them to participate. This represents 40 priests over the decades that have been accused of abuse. Most of these individuals are deceased, and all have been erased from ministry," said Bishop Robert Cunningham.
The financial compensation program will be administered by two individuals out of Washington, D.C., who have overseen similar programs for Penn State, 911 and British Petroleum. They acknowledge that a check is not a bandaid and will not erase decades of pain and betrayal.
"Offering people a check after what they've been through is not satisfaction. Not much solace. But at least we're trying, with the church's instruction, to give these innocent victims some degree of financial help for what they've been through," said Kenneth Feinberg.
The Diocese monitored similar programs by the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre in preparation of setting up their own. Feinberg and his colleague, Camille Biros, have the task of attempting to assign a dollar figure to victims' suffering.
"We look at the age of the child when the abuse began. We look at the duration of the abuse," says Biros. "We look at was it a recidivist priest? We look at, lastly, most importantly, the nature of the abuse."
The program will first address the cases involving victims who have already come forward, citing abuse that happened decades ago. The money will come from the Diocese's general liability insurance; it will not come from the annual Hope Appeal, Catholic Charities, or other donor programs.
There is a deadline in May to opt in the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. The administrators say such deadlines are often necessary to encourage, or incentivize, victims to come forward. If a victim chooses to take part in the program, they must agree not to pursue lawsuits against the Diocese or its employees.