Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

(Updated Nov. 2, 2017)

In October 2016, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced the creation of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), an independent group that would compensate survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. (Note: The IRCP is a compensation fund, not a lawsuit.)

Survivors of sexual abuse who have come forward in the past have until January 31 to obtain financial relief for their trauma

Survivors of sexual abuse who had come forward in the past had until January 31 to obtain financial relief for their trauma. This was Phase I of the IRCP program.

Phase II involved abuse survivors who had not yet contacted the Church with claims of abuse. That enrollment period ended on November 1, 2017. The compensation fund is now closed.

 

IRCP Members Forfeit Right to Sue

Sexual abuse survivors who enrolled in the IRCP may not file a lawsuit against the New York Archdiocese. By filing for compensation from the IRCP, these survivors forfeited their right to sue at a future date.

New York’s statute of limitations laws are some of the strictest in the country.

Importantly, though, New York’s statute of limitations laws are some of the strictest in the country, which means that most survivors of sexual abuse can’t file a lawsuit regardless.

In New York, survivors of sexual abuse have until their 23rd birthday to file a sexual abuse lawsuit, whether civil or criminal. (In many states, there is no statute of limitations for these kinds of cases.)

This means that for most survivors, the IRCP was their best and only hope for justice after enduring such horrific abuse.

Cuomo Wants to Pass Child Victims Act

Last year, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) proposed the Child Victims Act, a law that would eliminate or extend New York’s statute of limitations in these cases. Unfortunately, the bill fell just short of reaching the state legislature’s floor for a vote last summer.

Though Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to pass a new version of the bill, Republican lawmakers in the state killed the bill once again in 2017.

Governor Cuomo’s bill would have given survivors of sexual abuse up to 50 years to file a civil lawsuit.

There is no guarantee this act will ever pass,  so many victims considered the IRCP their best and last chance at relief.

Payout from IRCP Could Total Millions

Though no amount of money could ever make up for the horrors of sexual abuse, compensation does allow survivors to obtain at least a small measure of relief and justice.

It’s unclear how much relief survivors might receive. But if Mr. Feinberg’s past compensation funds are any indication, it could be sizable:

  • Feinberg’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund secured $7 billion for victims in the 9/11 attacks, at an average of $1.8 million per affected family.
  • Feinberg’s fund for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing secured $61 million for those impacted by these attacks.

Moreover, the “Independent” in IRCP represents 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. This means that he and his team will have final say on the compensation that will be distributed to survivors of sexual abuse.