The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, will pay $87.5 million to approximately 300 alleged sexual abuse victims, under a settlement reached Tuesday.
The payout, one of the largest by a U.S. diocese, would surpass the Archdiocese of Boston's historic 2003 settlement of almost $85 million, the Associated Press reported. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has the largest settlement to date, $660 million.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Camden still must approve the settlement.
Payments of the funds will roll out over a four-year period into a trust. The agreement also requires the diocese to keep “maintaining or enhancing” child protection protocols.
The New York Times reported that payments will differ for each of the plaintiffs, with the average amounting to about $300,000 per person.
The settlement still allows the alleged victims to file claims against insurance carriers that provided insurance to the diocese.
Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys representing 74 of the 300 alleged victims, called the settlement “a powerful advance in accountability” and added that “the credit goes to the survivors for standing up for themselves and the truth.”
Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden issued a statement expressing remorse for the abuse that took place.
“I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese. My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again,” he said.
“It is my fervent hope that this settlement will be remembered as a positive step in our attempts to rectify past sins,” Sullivan added. “Let us all continue to pray for the survivors, while again recommitting ourselves to the protection of all youth and vulnerable people in our care, today and always.”
Anderson said in his statement that the lawsuits against the diocese were filed through a special lookback window opened by the 2019 New Jersey Victims’ Rights Bill.
The legislation allowed child victims of sexual assault to file civil lawsuits until they turned 55, or until seven years from the time they became aware of the injury, whichever came later. For those who have been previously barred from seeking damages, the law also offered a two-year window to pursue legal action. That window closed Nov. 30, 2021.
In October 2020, the Diocese of Camden filed for Bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which allows it to continue operations.