Claims process begins for clergy abuse victims; nearly 350 submitted credible allegations

Steve Tawa
November 13, 2018 - 4:11 pm
Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell (right) discusses parameters of the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP).

Steve Tawa/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's independent compensation program for victims of clergy abuse has begun to provide support for survivors.

Members on the panel for the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP) will begin to hear claims, regardless of when victims were harmed.

The panel disclosed for the first time that its initial mailing of packets went to 342 known survivors within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who submitted credible allegations. The work will be monitored by an Independent Oversight Committee, chaired by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

"Sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic Church clergy is a tragedy," Mitchell said. "It seriously and adversely affected many innocent victims that mars the church's considerable contribution to the fabric of American life. Also of great concern, are the failures of many archdioceses to prevent these unspeakable acts from occurring."

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Mitchell said the IRRP is "a comprehensive effort to enable all victims of clergy sexual abuse to obtain financial and therapeutic support, through a dignified, non-adversarial process." It is designed "to mitigate the harm, while understanding that no remedy can fully recognize what these victims endured, regardless of when the harm occurred."

There is also no monetary cap on claims, he added, "either in the aggregate or for any individual."

Lynn Shiner, a nationally recognized advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, will be the victim support facilitator.

"This program isn't about bringing closure or making victims whole," she said. "Sadly, that will never happen. Nor is about restoring their faith in the Catholic Church. It's about acknowledging the pain, the unjust harm, and the archdiocese's failure to prevent that harm."

Mediator Ken Feinberg, who handled a similar program in several Catholic dioceses in New York, added that "no amount of money will provide closure to the victim or satisfy them." But the program gives them "some degree of validation" for the claim.

"Do not underestimate the importance of this," Feinberg emphasized. "A claimant who for years — decades — may have been whistling in the wind about the legitimacy of a claim, now finds a program where that claim is validated. You were wronged; you have a right to recognize that your credible claim has been accepted."

While the archdiocese said it will use its own assets to pay claims, it went on to note, "while the number of potential claims is unknown, additional funding will need to come from borrowing and the sale of archdiocesan properties."

The IRRP is a voluntary program, and victims would have to waive their rights to sue the archdiocese in the future, if they accept the compensation.