US diocese cited COVID-19 for suspending abuse victim fund payments

A US diocese cited COVID-19 and the subsequent “precipitous decline in revenue” for halting its participation in an independent compensation program for victims of clerical abuse.

The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey released a statement last week saying it “is fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program.”

New Jersey’s five dioceses created the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) for victims of sexual abuse as minors by clerics in the state.

Although awards to victims already made by the program’s administrators will be paid, another reason the diocese cited for suspending victims’ payments was the need to provide for the communities it serves which, now more than ever, are so essential.”

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement through the IVCP, an abuse victim cannot then pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements are funded by the dioceses themselves.

“The program provides victims with an attractive alternative to litigation,” a statement from the IVCP read when the fund was created last year.

It would give abuse survivors a “speedy and transparent process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.”

The Camden diocese has not provided further details about its financial situation.

Victims’ compensation experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros administer New Jersey’s IVCP program and have helped create compensation programs for abuse survivors in New York and Pennsylvania.

The IVCP is unique among these as a statewide program that involves every diocese agreeing to follow the same compensation protocol.

The program does not handle claims of sexual abuse involving adults, including seminarians.

In its statement last Friday, the Camden diocese said it has paid financial settlements of more than $10 million to abuse victims since 1990.

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania suspended payments to its independent compensation program in April, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus.


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