The Diocese of Brooklyn is announcing a significant step in its ongoing response to the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) will allow survivors of sexual abuse by priests or deacons of the Diocese to seek financial compensation. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is implementing the voluntary program in Brooklyn and Queens to promote healing and to bring some element of closure.
“I am well aware that no amount of money will ever heal the scars of abuse, but this compensation program is a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends,” Bishop DiMarzio said in a video statement announcing the IRCP. (Read Bishop DiMarzio’s written statement here)
How the Program Works
The Diocese of Brooklyn’s IRCP will be administered by renowned settlement administrators and compensation experts Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros. Modeled after a program launched last October by the Archdiocese of New York, Feinberg and Biros will have total independence in determining compensation for survivors, and the Diocese will abide by their decisions. To further ensure public confidence in the IRCP, the Independent Oversight Committee has been established. Retired NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Joseph P. Dunne, retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Golia, and former president of the Queens Chapter of the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Barbara L. Ponieman have agreed to serve on this committee. Commissioner Dunne, Justice Golia and Dr. Ponieman have reviewed and approved the program’s protocol and will oversee its implementation and administration. The decisions made by Feinberg and Biros will not, however, be subject to appeal and cannot be overturned by the committee or the Diocese.
“We commend Bishop DiMarzio and the Brooklyn Diocese for their decision to implement the Brooklyn IRCP,” Feinberg said. “The Brooklyn Program continues the successful implementation of our work with the New York Archdiocese for which we have made payments to over 120 eligible individuals. We look forward to working with the Diocese and the Independent Oversight Committee.”
Policy on Reporting Abuse and Issues of Confidentiality
The Diocese of Brooklyn reports all claims of sexual abuse against a minor, irrespective of when the alleged abuse occurred, to the appropriate law enforcement agencies including the local district attorney.
Along with law enforcement authorities, the Diocese understands the importance of protecting the identity of victims of sexual abuse. To that end, the Diocese and the IRCP will respect the privacy of participants. However, participants themselves will not be bound by any type of confidentiality agreement and are free to discuss any and all aspects of their case and the compensation they may receive with anyone they wish.
Continued Victim Outreach
The Diocese of Brooklyn’s Office of Victim Assistance will continue all of its past efforts to support victims, such as paying the cost of therapy provided by independent professionals who are unaffiliated with the Church, offering various support groups, providing monthly prayer groups, and holding our annual Mass of Hope and Healing. Bishop DiMarzio will continue to listen to and be guided by the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Survivors Advisory Committee, whose members were victims of clergy abuse, in developing new ways to respond to the needs of victims.
Victim Response to the IRCP
Anthony Hughes, 41, came forward in 2006 to report being abused by a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn in the 1980s. Hughes says at first the Church was unsupportive and he felt that he was not believed, but in recent years there has been a significant shift. “This Bishop [DiMarzio] is listening to survivors. People need to know that the Church is moving in the right direction.” Today, Hughes is a member of the Survivors Advisory Committee and speaks publicly about his story.
Funding the IRCP
The Diocese will take out a loan to pay for the cost of compensating survivors. Donations given by the faithful in support of parishes, schools, charitable works, ministries, apostolates, and the Generations of Faith fundraising campaign will not be used to fund the IRCP.
How to File a Claim
The Diocese has already begun reaching out to survivors who have previously reported abuse by a diocesan clergy member. These known survivors are invited to participate in Phase I of the IRCP. In the next few days, these individuals will be receiving further information by mail from Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros with details about the IRCP process and instructions for submitting a claim. (The deadline for filing a claim in Phase I of the IRCP is September 30, 2017.)
Those who may come forward with a previously unreported allegation of abuse will be eligible to participate in Phase II by first registering through the program’s website to receive information for Phase II when it becomes available.