Citing impact of COVID, Camden Catholic diocese suspends participation in sexual abuse victim fund

Citing impact of COVID, Camden diocese suspends participation in abuse victim fund

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, New Jersey. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY_SA 4.0)
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, New Jersey. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY_SA 4.0)

.- The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey said July 31 it will suspend its participation in an independent compensation program for minor victims of clerical abuse, citing a “precipitous decline in revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“[The diocese] is fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program,” the diocese said in a July 31 statement.

The five dioceses of New Jersey announced in February 2019 the creation of the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) for victims of sexual abuse as minors by clerics in the state.

The Camden diocese began its participation in the program during June 2019. Although awards to victims already made by the program’s administrators will be paid, the diocese is instituting a moratorium on further determinations or awards, it said.

“These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs that the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves which, now more than ever, are so essential,” the statement continued.

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement through the IVCP, an abuse victim cannot then pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements are funded by the dioceses themselves.

“The program provides victims with an attractive alternative to litigation,” a statement from the IVCP read announcing its creation, adding that it would give abuse survivors a “speedy and transparent process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.”

The Camden diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further details about the diocese’s financial situation.

Victims’ compensation experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros administer New Jersey’s IVCP program. Feinberg and Biros have also been involved in the creation of compensation programs for abuse survivors in New York and Pennsylvania.

Among these programs, the IVCP is unique in being a statewide program that involves every diocese agreeing to follow the same compensation protocol.

The program does not handle claims of sexual abuse involving adults, including seminarians.

In its July 31 statement, the Camden diocese said it has paid financial settlements of more than $10 million to abuse victims since 1990.

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania suspended payments to its independent compensation program in April, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus.

Tags: Catholic News, Sex abuse, Coronavirus, Covid-19, Camden

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