BUFFALO, New York — The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said Tuesday its clergy abuse compensation program rejected more than half the claims filed by alleged victims while offering 127 people awards ranging from $2,000 to $650,000.
The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program was established last year amid public scrutiny of the diocese’s handling of claims of sex abuse against priests. In a summary, the diocese said that while a few awards are outstanding, the program “is substantially complete.”
Awards accepted to date total $17.6 million.
Only allegations of child abuse that had been reported to the diocese before the March 2018 start of the compensation program were eligible for consideration, a condition criticized by victims’ advocates.
“The report of the Diocese of Buffalo fails to take into account the hundreds of clergy sexual victims who were not eligible for the program because of the early reporting deadline of before March 1, 2018, the realization that clergy sexual abuse victims who were sexually abused in the 2000s will not come forward for years to come, and that history has taught us that the Diocese of Buffalo cannot successfully self-police,” Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of victims, said in a statement.
The diocese, which has released a list of at least 78 priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a child, said it tailored its compensation program to the circumstances of the diocese, and could not make an “open-ended” commitment. The program is being paid from self-insurance liability and investment fund reserves.
Officials said at the start they would consider expanding the program once it ended but on Tuesday ruled that out, citing New York’s passage of the Child Victims Act, which could bring additional claims, as well as the “unexpectedly large” number of claims the IRCP received.
The Child Victims Act created a one-year window, beginning in August, for victims to bring sexual abuse claims that otherwise would have been barred by the statute of limitations. The Catholic Church dropped its long opposition to the act after it was revised to treat public and private schools the same.
In all, the IRCP received 262 claims before the June 1, 2018, deadline and rejected 135 as ineligible, much of them because the abuse hadn’t been previously reported, according to the diocese, which challenged numerous claims.
As of Tuesday, 107 of 127 awards had been accepted, the diocese said. Three awards totaling $425,000 were pending.
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