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Joseph H. Saunders
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Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to Pay Millions to Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

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In a surprise move, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced this past Thursday that it will offer a sexual abuse victim compensation plan similar to the one the Archdiocese of New York began last year.  In fact, the Brooklyn Diocese, which covers the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, will use the same mediators to administer the program.  Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, mediators who administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and awarded compensation to victims of abuse by Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University, will run the Brooklyn program.

The Brooklyn program will initially consider the cases of about 280 abuse victims already known to the diocese, for claims of abuse that date to the 1930s. Each will receive a package detailing how to apply for compensation, which will only be granted if they pledge to bring no further legal action against the diocese.

At least 54 priests in the Brooklyn diocese, which also includes Queens, have been accused of child sexual abuse, according to BishopAccountability.org, a website that compiles lists based on litigation and news reports. The diocese told The Daily News last year that it would release a complete list of accused priests to the public, but it never did.

The compensation program is intended for those whose accusations do not fall within New York State’s statute of limitations for bringing a legal or civil case for molestation, which requires victims take action before age 23. New York has one of the most restrictive statutes in the country, and New York’s Catholic bishops are among those who have lobbied to keep it that way.

Given the fact that the Republican leader of the New York State Senate, John Flanagan of Long Island, announced this past week that the NY State Legislature will recess without considering the Child Victims’ Act, it is a bit of a surprise that the Diocese of Brooklyn has chosen this moment to announce a program to help those who were abused by Catholic priests.

Here are some of the details of the program from the Diocesan website:

“The Diocese has already begun reaching out to survivors who have previously reported abuse by a diocesan clergy member. These known survivors are invited to participate in Phase I of the IRCP. In the next few days, these individuals will be receiving further information by mail from Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros with details about the IRCP process and instructions for submitting a claim. (The deadline for filing a claim in Phase I of the IRCP is September 30, 2017.)

Those who may come forward with a previously unreported allegation of abuse will be eligible to participate in Phase II by first registering through the program’s website to receive information for Phase II when it becomes available.”

Of course, the Diocese of Brooklyn is well aware of the public relations value of such a move as well as the fact that such compensation programs come with the promise that survivors who participate in the program and receive compensation from the Diocese forego their right to bring a sexual abuse lawsuit against the church.  This also has the added advantage of keeping the criminal behavior of these priests in the dark and out of the public domain.

“These programs amount to essentially damage control, and do absolutely nothing to expose or deter those who commit or conceal these crimes,” said David Clohessy, the former executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

However, the Catholic Church is winning the legislative battle concerning the statute of limitations making it next to impossible to address these injustices and crimes in the civil courts in New York.  So, one has to ask the question, “why now?”  Why offer compensation to survivors who’ve been treated with nothing less than contempt and disregard in Brooklyn?  I represent survivors from many states in the Union and have found the Diocese of Brooklyn to be one of the most intractable dioceses in the country when it comes to sexual abuse survivors.  They’ve been aggressive in refusing to help survivors and in some cases claiming that the survivors’ allegations are unfounded without having done any investigation.

If you have questions or concerns about the Brooklyn Diocese compensation plan, please give me a call or you may email me at joe@saunderslawyers.com  I have been representing sexual abuse survivors for decades now and I have specific experience with the Diocese of Brooklyn.  I will be happy to assist you.

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