Clergy Abuse Victims Caution Against Accepting Church Settlements
Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests cautioned Thursday against accepting a church-sponsored program to financially compensate them.
At a news conference, several victims gathered with their lawyer and said the program does not hold the church accountable. The victims sat at a table with a banner featuring pictures of young victims and the words “stolen souls.”
One victim named Dede said she wanted people to understand the pain victims suffer at the hands of clergy.
“Do you know what it feels like to be terrorized, tormented, abused and knowing that you can’t do anything about it, that nobody believes and nobody’s gonna care?” she said.
Six Roman Catholic dioceses in California announced the compensation fund this week. It offers payouts to victims of abuse, with no statute of limitations, and it will be administered independently of the church.
But Irwin Zalkin, a lawyer for abuse victims, called the program a "ploy" because victims would have to agree never to sue a diocese over the abuse.
“That’s not reconciliation, that’s not recognition, that’s not vindication for the victims,” Zalkin said.
Sexual abuse victim Esther Hatfield Miller said waiving the right to sue would not allow victims to expose cover-ups perpetrated by the clergy.
"We would be unable to enforce accountability,” she said.
Aida Bustos of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said the compensation fund is the church's way of trying to right past wrongs.
“We recognize our failures, and through this program, we hope to begin the process for anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest as a minor and to get the redress that they deserve,” Bustos said.
The program is being administered by Ken Feinberg, an independent mediator who has also been in charge of the fund for 9/11 victims. It is expected to go into effect within the next couple of months.