My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program (IRCP) has allowed the Diocese of Brooklyn the opportunity to reconnect with many victims who had come forward in the past, and who thought they had been forgotten.
The program ensures victim-survivors report their abuse to law enforcement, the district attorney of the county where the abuse occurred, and then are guided by an independent law firm that has had long-experience in settling claims in compensation cases.
Because of the IRCP, we have learned that there were more victims whom we did not know. Learning this has been an overwhelming experience, yet an experience that magnifies the need to continue guiding our faithful so together we can participate in the much-needed work of reconciliation and reparation.
Now that we know of these new victims who have come forward, we have the opportunity to reach out to them. So as not to taint the process in any way, as each victim completes the IRCP process, outreach is once again provided and the opportunity for each victim to meet with a bishop is extended. The truth is, the IRCP program was never about “getting rid” of victims. Rather, it is about offering another tangible way to acknowledge what had been done and how victims have been affected.
These meetings with victims provide an opportunity to sit across from each other, and listen to what the victim-survivor wishes to express. It allows me, as bishop, or an auxiliary bishop, not only to be a witness to the pain and the suffering they have experienced, but also to witness the strength, the love between family members and the fight to live, despite the traumatic experiences the victim-survivors have had to endure at the hands of those who represented our Church.
Here in our Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, independent of the IRCP, victims of clergy abuse are offered the possibility to attend therapy with an independent licensed mental health practitioner either of their own choosing or from the network of private therapists who provide trauma-informed care.
Aside from offering the possibility of mental health care, it has been important to focus on re-establishing relationships with survivors. The abuse victims have suffered, for many, also severed their relationship with the Church. Through God’s grace, we have begun to restore some of these relationships and have been able to develop the Survivors Advisory Committee that has become the active voice communicating to me the needs of survivors, in order to develop different means to promote healing and possibly begin to repair or create new relationships between the Church and victims.
The survivors have advised us of the need for healing Masses, support groups and to meet other survivors. This is a reason why we will be celebrating our fourth annual Mass of Hope and Healing on Wednesday, April 25, at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Jamaica. Because we are aware that safety is paramount for survivors, we also provide a way for survivors to join us for the Mass of Hope and Healing from their own home, by live streaming the Mass through https://netny.tv/watch-now/ at 7 p.m. In addition, we continue to provide a weekly support group for survivors and are developing various spiritual resources for survivors as well.
With the development of some of these relationships, we also came to know victim-survivors who have chosen to make themselves available to minister to other victims that have come forward, relating to each other from their own shared experiences, and becoming a companion in their journey towards healing.
The road from being a victim to becoming a survivor of sexual abuse is a long one. It is like putting out into the deep recesses of one’s past pain and suffering and finding relief and comfort. Survivors look to the future with hope, especially when their pain and suffering is acknowledged and they are understood.
Please join me in praying for our survivors and attend the Mass of Hope and Healing on April 25 at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.