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NJ Independent Compensation Program available for victims of Church sexual abuse of minors
October 04, 2019
On June 15, the New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) began accepting claims related to the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests and deacons in the five Roman Catholic Arch/Dioceses of Metuchen, Camden, Newark, Paterson and Trenton.
The statewide IVCP is being independently administered by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, two noted victims’ compensation experts who have designed and administered similar compensation programs for Catholic dioceses in New York and Pennsylvania. They have also administered compensation programs for victims of the Penn State sexual abuse claims, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
The IVCP has been established to compensate those who, as children or young adults, were sexually abused by a priest or deacon of the Diocese. This program is endorsed by all five Roman Catholic Dioceses in N.J. and their bishops who are united in supporting abuse survivors by providing them with an efficient alternative to litigation, that is both speedy and transparent, to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.
Feinberg and Biros have complete autonomy to determine the eligibility of a claim and the amount of compensation. Church officials have no authority to challenge the decisions or the amounts awarded as determined by the administrators.
In the Diocese of Metuchen all compensation paid pursuant to the Independent Victim Compensation Program is expected to be funded through the diocese’s self-insurance reserves and insurance policies. Though the self-insurance fund is in part made up of revenue collected through parishes paying their premiums, the diocese will not otherwise use donations given to parishes, schools, the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, Catholic Charities nor money given by a donor for a specific ministry or apostolate to fund the program for victims. Since its founding 38 years ago in 1981, the Diocese of Metuchen has paid approximately $1.5 million dollars in settlements to 21 survivors.
In 2002, the Diocese of Metuchen examined all clergy files, to review any reasonably available and relevant information pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse, in an audit conducted by an outside law firm and the diocesan chancellor. As a result of that audit, the Diocese turned over to law enforcement every alleged case of sexual abuse or misconduct, including cases that pre-dated the founding of the Diocese, many of which were reported to have happened between the 1960s and 1980s. Since that audit, it has been the practice of the Diocese of Metuchen to turn over to the County Prosecutors’ Offices every single reported claim of sexual abuse of a minor.
In an abundance of caution, the Diocese of Metuchen recently completed another review of all its files by an outside, independent law firm. No new accusations were found in the current review.
“The allegations that have been received by our diocese as related to the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests in our parishes and schools are, in all cases, decades old,” said Bishop James F. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen. “While our present Church has been entrusted with the responsibility of handling the misdeeds of the past, our diocese has taken significant steps to create safe environments in our parishes and our schools to ensure that these crimes and sins will not be repeated or tolerated, in any way, in our future.”
Transparency, justice and truth, remain a top priority for Bishop Checchio, who in a February letter to the Church of Metuchen, said, “As sad as this day is for the Church, I remember daily that God has called me to this diocese, to be here with you and to walk down this road back to Him with transparency, justice and truth to promote healing, confidence and renewal. The challenges the Church faces now may seem daunting, but we must not fear the days ahead; Christ walks with us. Together, we will journey toward a new day.”
Important features of the IVCP include:
1. The two administrators will operate in complete independence of the Arch/Diocese in determining eligibility and the amount of compensation.
2. The program is completely voluntary; no individual claimant is required to participate.
3. All payments authorized by the administrators will come from Church funds; no public money will be used to compensate victims.
4. Only if the individual victim accepts the amount offered by the administrators will a signed release be required, in which the victim agrees not to engage in any further litigation against the particular diocese.
5. The program will give first priority to claimants who previously filed a complaint directly to diocesan officials about sexual abuse, prior to the establishment of the IVCP.
6. Beginning June 17, those claimants who previously filed a complaint directly to diocesan officials will be sent a program claim packet from the administrators.
The IVCP will be open to claims beginning June 15 and will close on December 31, 2019. All individual claims must be submitted during this period. All victims – no matter when the abuse occurred – are eligible to participate, and all matters will be handled confidentially.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse of minors can begin the claims process by going to www.NJdiocesesIVCP.com and reviewing the program protocol.