(Updated Nov. 2, 2017)

From 1950 to 2002, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York received complaints from 136 people who claimed they were sexually abused by 49 priests or deacons. The Archdiocese released this data, the “John Jay Study,” in February 2004.

The Archdiocese of New York has established a fund to compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Since then, the Archdiocese received about 70 more complaints of abuse, bringing the total to roughly 200, according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.

To remedy that injustice—and perhaps to stave off future litigation—in October 2016 the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had established a fund to compensate victims of sexual abuse at the hands of its priests: the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, or IRCP.

The IRCP is headed up by mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who has also handled compensation funds for victims of 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The program may bring relief to many victims, but it doesn’t give them much time to obtain it. The 200 victims who had already come forward with claims of abuse had until January 31, 2017 to enroll in the compensation program.

*Please note that the enrollment period for this compensation fund ended on Nov. 1, 2017.*

About the IRCP

Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced the formation of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) on October 7, 2016. Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros (another moderator) will oversee the program, which has two phases.

The first phase applied to victims of priest abuse who have already come forward with claims of abuse. That phase ended January 31, 2017. This means that the archdiocese gave its original victims just four months to seek financial relief.

The second phase began February 1, 2017 and applies to victims who have not yet come forward with claims of abuse. These victims—or their families, if the victims have passed away—had until November 1, 2017 to enroll.

The “Independent” in IRCP concerns the non-church panel that will manage the program and determine the compensation amount, which the church cannot negotiate or veto. In addition to Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros, that panel includes the following members:

  • Jeanette Cueva, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University
  • Raymond Kelly, former NYPD commissioner
  • Loretta Preska, a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York

Mr. Feinberg has called the IRCP “rather unique” in its total independence, which runs counter to some compensation programs set up by other archdioceses.

Moderator Camille Biros said that 142 of the 175 eligible victims enrolled during Phase 1 of the program.

Critics Blast IRCP as Calculated Move

Some victims may be reluctant to join the program because they would then forfeit their ability to file a lawsuit at a future date. Though many if not most victims are prohibited from filing a suit because of New York’s harsh statute of limitation (SOL) laws, the Child Victims Act (see below) could change that.

“He’s presenting it as a mercy, but it’s actually a shrewd strategy.”

In this way, the IRCP is not only an offering of relief for victims of sexual abuse; it’s also a canny move that (a) could save the church time and money in the long run; (b) will keep records relevant to the clergy’s abuse confidential.

In a lawsuit, the archdiocese would have to supply these records, which could be a public relations nightmare.

Anne Barrett Doyle, one of the directors of BishopAccountability.org, said of Cardinal Doyle and the IRCP, “He’s presenting it as a mercy, but it’s actually a shrewd strategy.”

The director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, David Clohessy, said that the timing of the IRCP’s formation is a direct response to an effort by New York lawmakers to reform the state’s statute of limitations laws.

The archdiocese opposes the Child Victims Act, which would extend if not eliminate New York’s statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse. If the act is passed, the church would likely face a flood of litigation.

Child Victims Act Is Killed Once Again

New York’s notoriously harsh SOL laws require child victims of sexual abuse to file charges (criminal or civil) by the time they turn 23. For context, some states have no statute of limitations at all for these cases.

“How can you look the survivors in the eye?”

Some legislators want to change that. In 2016, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) proposed the Child Victims Act, a law that would have eliminated or extended New York’s SOL. Unfortunately, the bill fell just short of reaching the state legislature’s floor for a vote that summer.

Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the act, said, “How can you look the survivors in the eye?”

In 2017, the Child Victims Act was again killed by Republican Congresspersons in New York, most likely in response to hard lobbying by organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.