After years of playing hardball with survivors of clergy sexual abuse by using the antiquated New York statute of limitations to have cases dismissed, today, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced a plan by the Archdiocese of New York to handle claims of sexual abuse by its clergy. The timing of the Cardinal’s and the Archdiocese’s sudden interest in sexual abuse survivors is suspicious.
According to NBC – New York, the Archdiocese of New York will create a compensation program for people who were abused by Catholic clergymen in the past. This program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who served as a mediator of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. There will be no cap on compensation or a statue of limitations on the claims, the archdiocese said. The compensation fund will be paid for with a long-term loan, the archdiocese said.
It is appropriate to approach this sudden interest in sexual abuse survivors given Dolan’s history of manipulating abuse survivors using a similar “plan” when he was the Archbishop of Milwaukee. Will this New York “plan” be similar to the plan in Milwaukee? That plan required survivors of sexual abuse to participate in a process that excluded their attorneys, provided very small payments to those survivors and involved hardball tactics by the Archdiocese to coerce survivors to give up their rights. Ultimately, then, Archbishop Dolan’s plan proved to be a way to exclude as many sexual abuse survivors as possible from bringing claims in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy.
This last year, the New York legislature came very close to passing sincere statute of limitations reform for sexual abuse claims. This is where sexual abuse claims should be resolved. When someone files a case with a court, the community has the benefit of knowing the identity of the perpetrator. When someone files a case with a court, the survivor has the benefit of the civil discovery process to force institutions to divulge documents and testimony regarding the abuse. When someone files a case, there is a judge overseeing the case to insure that one side is not abusing the process or the survivor. When someone files a case, the amount of money recovered is directly related to the amount of damage suffered, without the use of guilt or other religious manipulation.
Without question, the best solution for providing real assistance to sexual abuse survivors is to pass a meaningful statute of limitation reform that would open the courts to these claims. This is the best way to provide support to survivors of sexual abuse.