NJ Catholic Dioceses Creates Fund for Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims

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New Jersey Roman Catholic Dioceses Creates Fund for Victim of Clergy Abuse

The New Jersey Roman Catholic dioceses are following in the footsteps of New York and Pennsylvania, establishing a unified victims-compensation fund for those who were victims of clergy abuse as children.  The administrators of the fund will be Camille Biros and Kenneth Feinberg who currently oversee the similar funds in NY and PA.

The details of the fund are not yet final, but it will be up to the administrators to determine who receives compensation from the fund and how much.  Eligibility criteria and evaluation of claims are at their discretion and in an article published in the North Jersey Record, Biros stated that “Church officials will have no authority to challenge their decisions.”

What is a Victim Compensation Fund for Clergy Sex Abuse Victims?

The New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal began an investigation into clergy abuse in the fall of 2018 after a report that priests abused more than 1,000 children in neighboring PA over the years.  Other states report horrific sexual abuse of children by the clergy.  In New Jersey, the numbers are still unknown.  The fund, according to Biros, will likely receive and handle claims in phases.  First, from those who have already made claims with the appropriate church, and second, from victims coming forward now.

The fund’s purpose is to provide monetary compensation to victims of clergy abuse.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the amount of compensation will vary from victim to victim but will be determined based on many factors such as “the age of the child, the nature of the abuse, the impact on the victims’ lives, and whether drugs and alcohol” were involved.  There is no cap on the amount of compensation a victim of clergy sex abuse may receive.

Victim Compensation Fund Controversy

The announcement of the fund’s creation comes at a time when the NJ legislature is contemplating the extension or elimination of the child abuse statute of limitations.  New York just expanded its criminal and civil child molestations statutes of limitations.  This means that in New York, victims of clergy abuse will have more time to pursue criminal charges and civil remedies in a court of law.  The victim compensation fund, in the meantime, allows victims who are time-barred from filing a lawsuit, to try to collect compensation from the church.  It gives them a window during which they may file a claim with the fund.

Victims Who Accept Money from the Fund Must Sign a Release That They Will Not Sue the Diocese 

Some critics argue that victim compensation funds, like the one that will be established in NJ, dissuade the legislature from passing meaningful changes to the existing laws.  If the statute of limitations is revised to allow more victims of clergy abuse to file suit, those victims can have their day in court.  They can face their accusers, hold them accountable, and expose the truth.  For victims of sex abuse and child abuse, this is often an essential part of their healing process.  While it is good to provide compensation to victims of abuse who might not otherwise be eligible, this should not prevent the legislature from amending the law to allow more victims of clergy abuse to pursue their cases in court.

Contact Us if You or a Loved One Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse by the Clergy

Call Alonso Krangle, LLP if you were the victim of clergy abuse.  Our attorneys fight hard for those who are the victims of this and other abuse.  We can fight for you.  Our attorneys are discrete, and all calls are confidential.  Call our experienced clergy abuse lawyers at 800-403-6191.

Sources:  Post Gazette and NorthJersey.com