The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has established an Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program to compensate victims of clergy sex-abuse. The Program will be overseen by an Independent Oversight Committee, which includes George Mitchell (former U.S. Senate Majority Leader), Lawrence Stengel (former Federal Judge in Pennsylvania), and Kelly Hodge (former Interim Philadelphia District Attorney). These individuals will help to ensure that the Fund is independent and not influenced by the Church.
The Fund will be administered by two individuals, who will review all of the claims that are submitted and decide on an award for each claimant. The two administrators are Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, who have overseen similar compensation programs for clergy sex-abuse in New York, as well as for victims of 9/11, the Boston Marathon terror attack, and mass shootings across the country.
All claims must be submitted by September 30, 2019. Individuals who have not previously reported claims of abuse to the Archdiocese must register by July 31, 2019, and then must submit their claim by September 30, 2019. The Administrators will review each claim as they are received, and will decide on an award. In order for a claimant to receive payment, he or she will be required to sign a release prohibiting him or her from bringing an action in court. On the bright side, claimants can go through the process and receive the award offer from the Administrators before deciding whether to accept the offer. The only catch is that the offer must be accepted within 60 days or it will no longer be valid.
The Program has an initial funding of between $25-30 million. The Church has pledged that none of the funds will come from donations individuals make to the Church, and it is expected that the Church will sell property/other assets to provide the necessary funding. All claims will be confidential with two exceptions. Claims will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office and the Archdiocese for them to review. The District Attorney will review the claims for potential criminal charges, and the Archdiocese will review to ensure that no person credibly accused of sexual abuse remains in ministry.
There is still a chance that the Pennsylvania legislature will lift the statute of limitations in its coming term starting in January. If it does so, victims of sex-abuse would have the opportunity to be heard in court. If the legislature refuses to lift the statute of limitations, this Program may be victims’ best chance of receiving some compensation for their suffering. If you or a loved one is the victim of sex-abuse, call us today to discuss how you can get justice.