The Los Angeles Archdiocese today joined five other California dioceses in a new private compensation program that will be available to any person who has been sexually abused as a minor by diocesan priests.
In a letter to Los Angeles Catholics, Archbishop José H. Gomez said the new program would expand the Church’s efforts to provide pastoral care and financial support to victim-survivors of abuse.
“We have been providing pastoral care and financial support for victim-survivors here in the Archdiocese for many years,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We will continue to do so. But we also understand that some victim-survivors are reluctant to come to the Church for assistance. Our hope with this new program is to give these people a chance to seek redress and healing through an independent program.”
The new Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests is independent from Church control, according to a statement issued by the California Catholic Conference.
The Conference said the program will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, nationally respected leaders in private compensation programs.
Feinberg and Biros have been working with the California bishops since late last year to design and administer the program, which will be similar to ones the pair has established for dioceses in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.
The new program will be overseen by an independent board that includes former California Governor Gray Davis and business leader and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet.
In addition to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the dioceses of Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno will also be participating in the new program. Together, these dioceses comprise more than 10 million Catholics, or about 80 percent of the state’s Catholic population.
Under the program, Feinberg and Biros will have complete autonomy to determine the eligibility of individual claims and they alone will determine the amount of compensation offered to any victim, according to the California Catholic Conference.
The six dioceses will be reaching out to victims who have previously reported allegations of abuse to alert them to this new program.
The program is also open to a broader range than are eligible to pursue claims in civil courts. Those harmed many years ago and barred from filing lawsuits because of civil statutes of limitations will be eligible to make claims under this new program. Also, this program has no proof-of-citizenship requirement, so undocumented immigrants are eligible to make claims.
According to a list of Frequently Asked Questions released with the announcement of the program, victim-survivors do not need to have a lawyer to participate, and there are no fees for participating. Settlements for fully completed claims will be paid within 90 days.
In his letter, Archbishop Gomez said the Church in Los Angeles will continue its programs to protect children, report abuse and support victim-survivors.
“Again, I apologize to the victims of priest sexual abuse and express my deep sorrow and regret for our past failures and the trust that was broken,” added Archbishop Gomez. “I realize, as you do, that no program, however well-intentioned and well-designed, can repair the damage done to victims and their families. But I pray that this new program might provide another avenue toward healing and hope.”
For more information on the Archdiocese’s efforts to support victims, report misconduct and prevent abuse, visit protect.la-archdiocese.org.
A Spanish translation of Archbishop José H. Gomez’s letter to LA Catholics can be found here. A draft of the protocol governing the program can be found here. Dates and additional information regarding members of the Independent Oversight Committee will be updated at a future date.