In an attempt to address the approximately 200 claims of sexual abuse that occurred in parishes overseen by the Archdiocese of New York over the past few decades, the church is taking out a loan and launching an independently administered program that will distribute monetary compensation to those willing to relinquish their right to sue them in future.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan refused to speculate on how much money would be spent, but that the church intends to repay the loan with investments, and not detract from any charitable works or schools. On Thursday, Cardinal Dolan said the decision was “an act of reparation, at the cost of sacrifice” and that church officials have made “documented progress in dealing with this nauseating crime.”
The stipulations on accepting the money, which around 30 victims have so far, are generating skepticism for Cardinal Dolan’s apparently changed perspective on the issue of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. He has been a staunch opponent to proposed legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for victims to report and sue. According to The New York Times, child abuse victims are required to bring criminal or civil charges by the time they turn 23 in the state of New York. Advocacy groups and some lawmakers have been pushing for the Child Victims Act, which would extend the deadline, and the church has actively lobbied against it.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, believes that progress on the bill has motivated the church to initiate their compensation program, saying, “Whenever statute of limitations reform is making real progress, bishops take these steps, in essence, to say to lawmakers, ‘Hey, back off, we’re handling this ourselves.’”
Cardinal Dolan also served as Archbishop in Milwaukee between 2002 and 2009, and in 2013 court documents revealed that he had frequently reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse. He also moved $57 million into a private trust to protect it from possible litigation from victims, with the Vatican’s permission. Dolan’s “documented progress” may be largely directed towards moving money around differently.